• Sweet Summer: Louisiana Snowballs

    AS STHE TEMPERATURE RISES MANY LOUISIANANS reach for the ever-popular snowball to keep cool. Although it is loved by many throughout Louisiana not many know its origins and other facts about the southern staple. The Drum has found the answers to some of the most asked questions about this southern treat and created a directory of the most popular snowball stands from Ponchatoula to Baton Rouge.

    Is it snowball and snowcone?

    Not to be confused with the snow cone which is made from pre frozen crushed ice, the snowball is made from carefully stored and then shaved-to-order ice. IMG_2922 copy

    Where did the snowball come from?

    According to southernfoodways.org, the first snowballs were sold in New Orleans during the Great Depression that followed the stock market crash of 1929. At the time, a serving of shaved ice cost two cents. Most of the earlier snowball
    stands offered patrons only three flavors to choose
    from: strawberry, spearmint, and pineapple.

    How do they shave the ice?

    According to sno-ball.com, it was in 1934 when two snowball pioneers—George Ortolano and Ernest Hansen— revolutionized the industry by creating and patenting the first electric ice-shaving machines. Prior to the creation of the machines, large blocks of ice were shaved by hand. Today, the widely used ice shaver is the Southern Snow Machine; it incorporates more than 60 years of research and technology.

    Why do some snowball stands spell snowball “sno-ball”?

    As the popularity of this frozen treat grew in the 1930soutlets selling them began spelling “snowball”without the “w” to help consumers differentiate sno-ball stands from snowcone stands. Today, many stands are named sno-ball stands to pay tribute to the earlier stands in New Orleans.



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  • Men’s Health : A guide to cancer screenings


    IN HONOR OF NATIONAL MEN’S Health Week Month take time to encourage The American CancerSociety is encouraging men to talk to their doctors about appropriate screening tests they need to stay well based on their age and risk factors.

    Thanks to advancements in screening test many cancers can be found early, when they are preventable or easier to treat.

    Colorectal Cancer

    Many colorectal (colon) cancers begin as growths called polyps, and if these polyps are found through regular testing and removed before they turn into cancer, the disease can be stopped before it starts. Start testing at age 50, or younger if people in your family have had colon cancer. Talk to your doctor about which test is right for you.

    Lung Cancer

    The Society does not recommend routine lung cancer screening for people who are at average risk of the disease. However, we do have guidelines for people who are at high risk due to a history of smoking. If you answer “yes” to all of the following questions, you may be a candidate for screening. Talk to your doctor about the benefits, limitations,

    and potential harms of lung cancer screening to decide if it’s right for you.

    • Are you between the age of 55 and 74 years old?

    • Are you in fairly good health*?

    • Do you smoke at least 30 packs of cigarettes a year?

    • Are you still smoking, or have you quit smoking in the last 15 years?

    If you and your doctor decide that you should be screened, you should get a low dose CT scan every year until you reach the age of 74, as long as you remain in good health. Screening should only be done at facilities that have the right type of CT scan and that have a great deal of experience in CT scans for lung cancer screening.

    *Screening tests are meant to find cancer in patients who do not show symptoms. To achieve the best potential benefit from screening, patients should be in good health. For example, they need to be able to have surgery and other treatments to try to cure lung cancer if it is found.

    Prostate Cancer

    The American Cancer Society does not recommend for or against routine prostate cancer testing for men. Instead, we recommend that, starting at age 50, men take the opportunity to make an informed decision with their health care provider about screening for prostate cancer after receiving information about the uncertainties, risks, and potential benefits associated with testing. Testing should not occur in the absence of this informed decision-making. Men at high risk, including African American men and those with a family history of the disease, should have this talk earlier, at age 40 or 45.

    Skin Cancer

    During your regular checkups, have your doctor check your skin for signs of skin cancer. If you notice any changes to existing moles, tell your doctor right away.

    About half of all men in the US will develop cancer in their lifetime. Leading a healthy lifestyle combined with following the recommended screening guidelines can reduce your risk for developing cancer, or find it early when treatment is more likely to be successful. Remind dad about the importance of regular exercise, refraining from tobacco use, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutritious diet, and staying safe in the sun.

    Find more ways to help men stay well and get well by visiting cancer.org/menshealth or by calling The American Cancer Society anytime, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345.



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  • A love for Lululemon

    RUNNING HAS BECOME A way for me to stay in SHAPE and relieve stress, so as I began to pursue it more and more, I wanted a product that would motivate me while ensuring that I look good.

    Spending more time running meant that I needed to invest the same amount of money into my running ward- robe as I do in my other clothing. That’s when I learned that shopping for workout clothes would be different than shop- ping for everyday wear.
    Although it ranked high, looking good was not priority, but func- tionality was. As I looked around, I couldn’t find the two together. I would find a pair of shorts and shirt that look great, but after doing a few jumping jacks, yes jumping jacks, in the dressing room the comfort just wasn’t there. Then I would find something that passed the jumping jack test, but was lacking in the looks department.

    Then I found Lululemon. I had seen their logo before on people as ran the lakes or even on the person, but it was brief conversation at Target that made me want to try the brand. As I stood in the checkout line I heard a man and woman discussing the 7-mile run they had just finished. They looked as if they were dressed to begin a run and not like they had just finished one. I just knew they were freaks of nature. So I asked them “Did you guys literally just finish- ing running seven miles in 70 degree weather?”. The lady looked at me and replied “Yes”. Their faces were red and sweaty, but the rest of their bodies and their clothes were bone dry. I pointed this out to the woman and said that’s why I asked and man replied, “We’re wearing Lululemon”.

    From that brief conversation I knew Lululemon sounded exactly what was I looking for – it would provide comfort, functionality, yet still look appealing.Lululemon 2 (1) copy

    After search online I found Baton Rouge was home to a Lululemon show room. Also through my research I learned that Lulu- lemon began yoga-inspired athletic apparel company, but branched out to provide comfort those who run, work out and participate in other sweaty pursuits.

    I was slight apprehensive about visiting because I thought I’d be entering a place filled with yoga and running enthusiasts who would be nothing but annoyed that an amateur had ventured into their territory. It couldn’t have been more of the opposite, as soon as I entered the small showroom – the sales associate, Amanda began a conversation with me.

    The first product I got was the Metal Vent Tech SS shirt. Not only does it have mesh venting, it’s seam free to avoid chaffing. I also got a pair of Pace Breaker shorts.

    I try to run at least 12miles a week, usually three miles per day, but wearing Lululemon pushed me to run farther. The comfort of their athletic apparel is the best. I usually run without a shirt to help keep cool, but the lightweight feel and moisture wick material of the Metal Vent Tech SS shirt kept me cooler than I would’ve been shirtless. As ran I could feel the breeze through the breathable material as I took each stride.

    I was just as comfortable in the Pace Breaker shorts. I actually want use them for lounging and lunging and I even slept in them one night to ensure I would get up and run. My favorite feature is the strategically placed mesh venting on the sides and the two way stretch fabric allowing the wearer to move easily in them.

    No matter what type of workout you do, you can’t avoid sweat and odor but the Pace Breaker Short and Metal Vent Tech SS Shirt absorb both. When I run I sweat a lot, sometimes to the point I have to wring out my shirt, but when I finished my run, just like the couple I saw at Target, you could only see sweat on my forehead. As far as odor, neither of the products needed to be washed until third or fourth work- out.

    Needless to say Lululemon has found a customer for life in me. The products they sell not only motivate me to want to work harder and sweat more, but also my runs are now more comfortable and enjoyable.

    Cameron James

    City News Manager 

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  • Session ends with ‘sweeping change’

    THE 2014 LOUISIANA LEGISLATIVE session saw sweeping change to state policy. A number of new laws were introduced and a num- ber of changes were made to ex- isting ones. As usual, areas such as public education, abortion, the rights of LGBT individuals and healthcare were front and center. As usual, there were pas- sionate advocates on both sides of each issue.

    As is often the case in Louisiana, there were several bills regarding repro- ductive rights and sex education. One of the most highly publicized bill was HB 388 which was sponsored by District 16 State Representative Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) out of Monroe. The legisla- tion seeks to require that any doctor who performs an abortion at an abortion clinic must have admitting privileges at a hospi- tal within 30 miles of that site. The legis- lation passed and, if signed
    into law by governor Jindal, would force three of thestate’s five abortion clinics to close.

    Perhaps the most controversial bill involving pregnancy was legislation presented by State Representative Austin Badon (D)
    that would mandate that brain dead women who are pregnant must remain on life support if they are at least 20 weeks pregnant in spite of wishes to the contrary by the family or that woman herself.

    Other bills related to the life of the unborn include measures to block sex educators who are affiliated with any organization that supports or provides abortions from entering pub- lic schools and legislation that will require women considering abortions to undergo evaluation and have certain information presented to them. All of these bills passed and are awaiting the signature of Governor Jindal. Three bills by Rep. Pat Smith

    (D-Baton Rouge) regarding sex education failed in committee.

    This session was also an event- ful one in regards to issues facing LGBT citizens. There were three pieces of leg- islation that directly addressed the population. First was a bill presented by Rep. Jared Brosett (D-New Orleans) that would prohibit discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation in gender identity. It failed in the House Commerce Committee.

    There was also legislation introduced by Smith that would remove un- constitutional “anti sodomy” laws from Louisiana state law as well as local ordinances. While the bill did pass in committee, it ultimately died on the house floor. Finally, there was legislation introduced to prohibit employment discrimination in Louisiana. However, the legislation was pulled by Rep. Karen St. Germain (D-Plaquemine) who sponsored it because she felt that it would not have the adequate support.

    With a national debate over marijuana in full swing, it was in- evitable that the debate would play out on a state level as well. There was a series of bills proposed from both chambers that would change state policy regarding the drug. Notable efforts include a bill by Senator Fred Mills (R-New Iberia) that would allow for the medical use of marijuana in certain situations and a bill that would reduce criminal penalties for marijuana when the amount was less than 28 grams. All efforts to change existing state law as it relates to marijuana failed.

    Not surprisingly based on Gov- ernor Jindal’s adamant opposition in months prior to session Medicaid expansion did not pass on the state level. Senator Bill Nevers (D- Bogalusa) proposed legislation to let the voters decide whether or not they wanted it. The bill died in the Senate health committee.

    Other notable legislation include efforts to get Louisiana pay day lenders to cap interest rates—which did not pass—and a bill that would change the way schools are penalized for not meeting Common Core standards—that did pass.

    By Terry Young Jr

    Contributing Writer


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  • Medical Training College to host Open House

    Attendees will learn about programs offered by the Medical Training College on June 21 a 1p.m. Tours of the campus will be given and staff will be available to answer any questions. Free. Online: www.mtcbr.com. MTC is located at 10525 Plaza Americana Dr.

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  • Chef Ludlow offers tips for making famous tender BBQ Ribs

    CHEF DAVID LUDLOW HAS BEEN the go to cater for events ranging from corporate fundraisers to for celebrities including Lisa Raye and former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.

    The Convent, La., na- tive has been in the catering business for more than a decade, offering his most famous dishes has been his ribs. “I learned how to cook from my grandmother, I never went to culinary school she instilled passion in me for cooking that has never left.”, he said Ludlow shared his tips for barbecuing ribs with The Drum.


    1. Clean your meat.

    Remove ribs from packag- ing and thoroughly wash ribs and lay them in a pan.

    2. Create a dry rub.

    Use black pepper, Zaterain seasoning, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, sage, chili powder, dry oregano, and brown sugar. Mix all ingredients well. Season

    both sides of ribs with dry rub. (Note: any seasoning of your choosing is okay)

    3. Prepare the grill.

    I prefer to smoke my ribs. Soak wood chips in bucket of water for 30 minutes be- fore putting on grill. Place coals and put all the way to one side of the grill – I don’t cook over direct heat. Light the coals. Before it’s time to put meat on the grill, put the soaked wood chips on top of the coals.

    4. Cooking the ribs.

    Lay the meat on the grill. Close top and open bot- tom vent slightly. Now, let them cook! The best cooking temperature is be- tween 250-300. Every 30- 40 minutes check to see if coals need to be added. Ribs should be done in 5 to 6 hours.

    Chef David Ludlow can be reached by visiting  ludlowstasteoflouisiana. com or calling (678) 914-2037

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  • Student wins science Olympiad in Africa

    WHILE MOST MIDDLE SCHOOL students doodle to past the time, seventh grader Jalen Scott’s favorite pastime took him to Africa.

    As a student in Elkhan Akuhundov’s science class at Ken- ilworth Science and Tech- nology Charter School, Scott said it was when he looked at his pencil that he came up with the idea for a science fair project.

    “Every year students have to pick a topic to study and present their findings at the science fair, I looked at my pencil and thought to myself, lead has to be found more places than just in pencils,” Scott said.

    Upon joining the sci- ence, technology, engineering, and math program at Kenilworth, Scott decided his project for the science fair would examine elevated levels of lead in soil at Baton Rouge area schools.

    He said he was able to meet with LSU graduate students and professors, who after helping him decide on what to study. also helped him set up experiments and gather data.

    “It was fun working with the professors and I knew my project would be successful, because they know what they’re doing and they will share their expertise with you to make sure you know what you’re doing,” Scott said.

    Scott’s project produced a study of soil at 11 schools in the Baton Rouge area.

    “We used a PXF [Por- table X-ray Florescent] which is an instrument that when you place it in the soil, it tells you the com- pounds that make it up,” Scott said.

    Scott found lead levels above U.S. Environmental Protection Agency screen- ing limits at four of the schools.

    “The more involved I got in the project, the more I wanted to know and the more I wanted to know, the harder I worked to make this my best project yet,” Scott said.

    Akundov said his stu- dents are very involved in their projects when it comes to performing experiments and gathering data while teachers mainly only serve as the liaison between the students and their mentors at the University.

    “I’ve always been amazed by the interest he’s shown in science – I have always pushed his interest in anything that has to do with education,” said Sherman Scott, Jalen’s father.

    He continued to say that last year he worked with his son on a science project that didn’t receive a high grade so he used that defeat to motivate him toward victory with this project.

    “I learned along with my son, there were times I would look up words I didn’t know or look up ways to show my son how to explain something, I wanted him to see that it takes hard work to be the best,” he said.

    In 2013 when the young Scott presented his project at the science fair,

    his peers and teachers were not the only ones who took notice of the sixth grader’s research.

    “I can definitely see a difference from when I first met him, two years ago, to now,” Akundov said. “Not just from an academic standpoint, but he is more confident, and the experiences he’s had will have an impact on the rest of his life and the way he views the world.”

    Last year Scott’s work was published in the aca- demic journal Soil Hori- zons. This year Akundov entered the child’s work into the 2014 Golden Cli- mate International Envi- ronmental Project Olym- piad in Nairobi, Kenya.

    “I entered the project because it was very successful, it was published, had community impact and extended way beyond a science fair and lead to him being recognized by Arnie Dunckan, U.S. Secretary of Education,” Akundov said.

    Scott flew with his father and teacher to present his findings at the Olympiad where they stayed from April 29 to May 2. His findings were the only entry from the U.S. accepted to compete among 135 entrants from 31 countries.

    Scott left the competition victorious taking home its highest honor, the Wangari Maathai Special Award.

    After receiving so many accolades at such a young age, one would think Scott would want to pursue a science related career, but he said when he gets older he wants to be a graphic artist.

    “It’s something I have always wanted to do, as soon as I go home I draw, as soon as I get in class I draw, as soon as I leave class I draw. I feel like it’s a calling I’ve had since I was little,” Scott said.

    But his teacher believes he has already made an impact on the science industry.

    “It makes me feel important as a teacher being able to help a student accomplish so much with just one project,” Akhundov said. “This proves to everyone that anything is possible if you work hard, put in effort and keep trying.”

    By Cameron James 

    City News Manager

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  • Barnes elected to COSBP

    Louisiana State University School of Law student KENNETH BARNES JR. has been elected vice-chair of the Council of Student Body Presidents. COSBP is a state entity that comprises Student Government Presidents from public in- stitutions of higher learning. Universities, Coleges, Community Colleges, as well as Technical Colleges are represented within COSBP. Barnes will serve as the liaison between the COSBP’s committees and COSBP, as well as fulfill other duties of COSBP’s Executive Board.

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  • Tips to Reduce Allergens in Your Home this Season

    Many people seek refuge indoors around this time of year, when outdoor air is full of pollen and other allergens. For allergy sufferers, however, the air indoors can prove to be just as problematic.

    Dust that collects in a home contains common household allergens such as dust mite particles and animal dander. If dust is disturbed from furniture, hard surfaces and carpet, those allergens can become airborne and reduce indoor air quality.

    May is designated National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, and it is an excellent time to make your home cleaner and healthier by removing common household allergens and improving your indoor air. Even if you don’t have asthma or allergies, everyone can benefit from better indoor air quality.

    “The way you clean your home is important. Most household cleaning routines only re-circulate allergens throughout your home rather than removing them,” said Justin Bates, president of Stanley Steemer, International, Inc. “If your cleaning routine doesn’t specifically focus on dust and allergen removal, you may be only moving them around, sending allergens back into the air.”

    To maximize your cleaning efforts while reducing allergens, consider these simple tips.

    • Dust hard surfaces regularly with moist cloths or special dry dusters designated to trap and lock dust.

    • Wash your bedding and linens often. Doing so can help you control dust mites in your home.

    • Vacuum often. Although cleaning can sometimes trigger allergic reactions by releasing dust into the air, vacuuming floors once or twice a week will reduce surface dust and allergens. Make sure your vacuum has a high efficiency air filter to capture dust.

    • Use a certified professional carpet cleaning service to deep clean your carpets to remove the stains, spills and dust that regular vacuuming leaves behind. Be sure to use a service that’s qualified to reduce allergens in the home. Stanley Steemer’s Professional Carpet Cleaning service is the first to be certified asthma and allergy friendly by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

    Independent testing proved Stanley Steemer’s proprietary cleaning process removed 94 percent of common household allergens, including 92.8 percent of cat dander, 97.8 percent of dog danger and 91.4 percent of dust mite allergens. The process also reduces exposure to bacteria and mold by 90 percent within 24 hours of cleaning. AAFA recommends a certified professional carpet cleaning every three to four months.

    • Protect yourself when doing housework by wearing a mask. After cleaning, consider leaving for a few hours to avoid allergens in the air.

    • Reduce pet dander. If you have allergies, don’t keep pets with feathers or fur, such as birds, dogs and cats in your home. Animal saliva and dead skin, also known as pet dander, can cause allergic reactions. If you already have a pet, keep it out of the bedroom.

    • Shut out pollen. Inspect your windows for a film of pollen on the frame or sill. Prevent pollen from entering your home by keeping windows and doors closed. Use an air filter and clean it regularly or run the air conditioner and change the filter often.

    Over 70 million Americans suffer from asthma and allergies. If you’re one of them, be proactive. National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month is the perfect time to eliminate triggers in your home so you can breathe more easily. A cleaner home is a healthier home.

    For more tips on reducing allergens in your home, and more information about asthma and allergy friendly carpet cleaning services, visit StanleySteemer.com.


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  • Working hurts finances of Blacks working way through college

    WASHINGTON (NNPA) — More than 60 percent of Black students could receive greater financial aid for college through the Pell grant program if enrolled full-time, according to a new report by the National Urban League.

    The report, which focused on the profile of a typical Black student and the uphill battle they fight to get to college and earn a degree, found that 62 percent of Black students receive funding for college through the Pell grant program, but many more would qualify if they didn’t have to work supporting themselves, their families or young children.

    “While 62 percent of African American students receive some Pell support, only 14 percent of independent African Americans receive the maximum Pell Grant award,” the report stated.

    During the 2011-2012 school year, maximum Pell grant awards ranged between $4,500 and $5,500.

    According to the report, Black students are more likely to come from low-income families than their white peers. Black students are less likely to receive family contributions, which increase the likelihood of receiving higher Pell Grant awards.

    A 2012 report on Pell grant recipients by the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, said that Blacks account for 12 percent of Pell recipients, while 63 percent of funds allocated to the grant program went to white students.

    In fact, the Pope Center report found that the typical Pell recipient was white, female, 25 years old, works part-time, is financially independent and is going to school full-time.

    Yet, the independent status of Black students often leaves them unable to attend college full-time and makes it even harder for them to graduate.

    “The biggest distinction that we found is that most African American graduates are independent or non-traditional students compared to other races and ethnicities,” said Susie Saavedra, a senior legislative director at the National Urban League’s Washington Bureau.

    Saavedra, who co-authored the report, said that the distinction between independent students and dependent students is significant because there are important differences that affect the way each group matriculates through college.

    “Independent African-American undergraduates are more likely than others to be single parents, 48 percent, compared to 23 percent of whites, 34 percent of Latinos, 36 percent of Native Americans and 19 percent of Asians,” the report stated.

    More than 40 percent of independent Black students attend two-year schools and about one in four independent Black students are enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs. In contrast, more than half of all dependent Black students are enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs.

    Saavedra said that Black students often enter college so academically unprepared that they’re using their valuable Pell grant dollars to pay for remedial courses that don’t count towards a degree, further limiting their financial resources.

    Despite their own constrained financial resources, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), often graduate a disproportionate amount of Black students, compared to predominately white institutions.

    Although, HBCUs account for less than three percent of all post-secondary institutions they graduate almost 18 percent of the Black students that earn bachelor’s degrees.

    Marybeth Gasman, a professor of higher education in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia said that the cooperative-learning environment found at many HBCUs rather than a cutthroat competitive environment and that ends up supporting students.

    “If you have students that are mentoring each other instead of constantly trying to one-up each other, it changes the environment and it makes it more academically and socially supportive,” Gasman said.

    She said that racial incidents that occur at majority-white institutions often chip away at the psyche of Black students.

    “Within the HBCU environment there is a belief in the potential and the success of Black students, that right there can make an enormous difference,” Gasman explained.

    Saavedra said that even with reforms to the Pell grant program, financial aid alone is not enough to retain and graduate low-income and underserved students.

    “Instead, a growing body of research suggests that when financial aid is paired with wrap-around services or personalized approach to higher education we see improved retention among low-income students,” Saavedra said.

    Researchers recommended building learning communities to strengthen connections between students, increasing access to social safety net programs to provide students with comprehensive financial support, enhancing career advisement. Students also need greater financial counseling to help them understand the real cost of college and summer bridge programs to prepare them for the coursework.

    Saavedra said that policymakers and advocates must find better ways to serve non-traditional students.

    “Many of our recommendations offer a proactive approach that move the conversation beyond the goal of college access to providing the necessary support and re­sources to address the factors highlighted [in the report],” Saavedra said. “We believe these strategies will help us realize the larger goal of college completion, upward mobility, and economic empowerment for all underserved students.”

    By Freddie Allen

NNPA Washington Correspondent

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  • Louisiana Northshore Quilt Trail Board dedicates new block

    Members of the Louisiana Northshore Quilt Trail Board dedicated their newest block at Fairview-Riverside State Park
    in Madisonville.
     This installation adds yet another block in St. Tammany Parish and becomes #104 on the five parish Quilt Trail. The goal
    of this three year old non-profit driving trail is to strengthen the economy through tourism, one quilt block at a
    Visit www.laquilttrail.com to request a free map. 
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  • Faith, poverty drives a ‘real’ queen

    THE MAKING OF A REAL QUEEN is simple, yet many see it as a position of privilege.

    A real queen is someone very much like my mom, sisters, and me—women driven by faith, poverty, discrimination, color, gen- der and health issues.

    My faith to pray and trust God to give me di- rection as I pursued my dreams and visions em- powered me. My mother believed if you could pray about, it would be all right, and change would come in God’s time if you let go and worked to make it happen. Faith she would always say, can’t work through lazy folk, they quit trusting too easy and want success fast!

    Poverty, as defined by my mother, is a state of mind. Poverty was some- thing that I did not under- stand because as a child when opportunities were presented to me, my mom had prepared me to the best of her ability to accept the challenge and succeed. Poverty to some was not having what you needed. That did fit my mom’s def- inition! Poverty to her was not having food on the table, clothing, or shelter, from the sun, storm and rain. Poverty was not hav- ing the freedom to pray or family support.

    I experienced discrimination at an early age when our school bus broke down and all of children had to walk down a long, muddy gravel road. Another bus came by and the driver stopped to speak to our bus driver that looked white.

    When he discovered he was Black, his next reply, was those kids can’t ride the white bus! I shouted, “we can ride because the bus is yellow!” After walking about ten miles in my white tennis shoes, filled with mud, finally we were home. I told my mother of the conversation.

    Her advice was, see this as an experience in this life, many cars and trucks will pass you by, but the time will come when you will drive your own. These are hard times, and it will get better, I know, I am not in

    the field no more. Often times because of my skin color, I was not seen as someone that would not succeed or give back to society, but take from it. Being Black, my mother would say, defined strength that many did not possess – your color one day will not matter, God got plans for you and your color don’t make you or break you.

    My gender has been an issue with the vocations I have chosen, and having been ordained, called and chosen by God to do them. As a minister of almost 48 years, still my gender is an issue with that good old boy’s club. I am seen as ag- gressive instead of asser- tive because I am a woman, speaking truth to power, standing for what I believe,

    unwavering in my faith and teachings by a real queen.

    My many health is- sues, challenges, losses, disappointments and pain taught me how to be a real queen. Following my mother’s example as she is a real queen overcom- ing the struggle and stigma of a single mother rearing five daughters after a sepa- ration from her husband, making sure the words “I can’t”, never become a

    part of her daughter’s vo- cabulary. What makes me a real queen, are the les- sons I have learned, and life journey, I experienced. The ability to stand when I find myself standing alone, but not really alone, for I stand on the shoulder of my mother, the real queen. My mother did not write a best seller, but as a queen, her character and service to the community will leave a legacy of fun memories and lessons on family values, faith and perseverance. I am the daughter the real queen, writing what I hope to be a part of history, not in books, but in the hearts and minds of women and children, attempting to forge a better generation for the future, encouraging, empowering and en- bolding the next real queen to not accept the criticism of society that choose to define her, but to forge her path to greatness and her true purpose in life, creating another real queen!

    By Joyce Turner Keller,

    Th.D., is founder of Trav- elers of Christ Evangelistic Ministry. She is a global advocate for HIV/AIDS.

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  • Miss Capital City USA shares her journey with Miss USA/Universe

    MY JOURNEY OF competing in the Miss USA/ Universe Organization as an African- American woman did not begin as such, and is not laced with adolescent experiences of tiaras and sequins.

    Being raised in south Baton Rouge, my ultimate objective as a child was to fortify my dreams and potential and to not fall prey to the same statistics as my peers. It wasn’t until early adulthood that I was inspired to compete in the Miss USA/Universe Organization in 2008 when CrystleStewart won the coveted title, Miss USA.

    However, being overweight and in an abusive relationship, I was greatly discouraged from pursuing the newfound dream. With a compilation of faith, heartache and God’s divine order I was able to successfully lose more than 60 pounds, lose the jerk, start an event-planning firm, return to college and launch a career in film, music and stage.

    While recovering from an injury last summer, I was encouraged by my 13-year- old sister to compete as she, her friends and I watched the national pageant from my home. I applied later that week and to my surprise would soon hold the title of Miss Capital City USA 2014.

    Already an active member in my community as a mentor and philanthropist in the arts, I was partaking in the activities of a dutiful beauty queen prior to my affiliation with the organization, however I was pleasantly surprised to find how many young women were inspired to see a woman of their ethnicity, from their community join such an elite sorority of women. It was at that moment that I realized that my ethnicity did matter, but only because it was resounding proof to many women that now it no longer does not.

    I’ve learned in mentoring and with my philanthropic work that people only do better when they know better and they only pursue better when they are aware that the possibility of attainment exists.

    I can say without reservation that my ethnicity did not play a factor in competing in the 2014 Miss Loui- siana USA Pageant, but I’m sure it played a factor in the positive self-image of women when I beamed with pride after being an- nounced as a finalist.

    This journey called life has been an eventful one but what I can impart from are two things: there is nothing more anti-climatic than opening a beautifully presented gift box to find that it holds nothing…hold something and have an opinion about it; and if you ever want to make God laugh, just tell Him what your plans are and He will show you that His are better whether you like it or not.

    BY Shanna Burris

    Miss Capital City USA Shanna Marie Burris is a professional performer in stage, film, music, and dance. She is a Baton Rouge native. 

    Read more »
  • Komunyakka receives honorary Doctorate

    Pulitzer Prize winning poet YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at Centenary College’s May 3 graduation alongside Moonbot creator WILLIAM JOYCE. A Bogalusa native, Komunyakaa is veteran of the Vietnam War as well as a lifelong poet and educator.

    Read more »
  • Consequences

    Here’s look at the books written by Baton Rouge natives that have landed on THE DRUM staff’s bookshelf. These books are available in major bookstores and online.

    The story of four women trying to balance social lives, work, and careers, but when men enter the picture and influence the decisions they make, they must deal with the consequences. Consequences was written by Calandra “StaXX” Brown.

    Read more »
  • Battle to incorporate City of St. George continues

    WHEN THE BATON ROUGE Metro Council voted 9-3 to approve the annexation of the Mall of Louisiana and two major hospitals into Baton Rouge earlier this month, some people said it was a big blow to the effort to incorporate the proposed City of St. George.

    It is an effort that supporters said would improve education and create an independent school district. Opponents said it would pose an economic threat to the parish and some even have called it white flight.

    By definition, white flight, a term first used in 1967, is the departure of whites from places (urban neighborhoods or schools) increasingly or predominantly populated by minorities.

    Nestled in East Baton Rouge Parish, the proposed city is more than 84 square miles and has a population of more than 107,000 people. If supporters have their way, it will become the fifth largest incorporated city in the state.

    “This started about and continues to be about public education,” said Lionel Rainey III, spokesperson for the incorporation effort.

    Rainey said that six out of 10 schools in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System are failing. He called the school system one of the worst in the state and coun- try. He cited hundreds of students arrested within a school year.

    “It’s just a failed school system,” said Rainey, who added that the system is being investigated for a major grade changing scandal.

    He stressed that the incorporation effort is not white flight and not about race at all.

    “It’s got nothing to do with skin color. Those who have the ability to leave are leaving – it’s middle class flight,” Rainey said. “The first thing I say is who are we breaking away from? This area is not a part of Baton Rouge. That’s rheto- ric used by someone who doesn’t know what’s hap- pening.”

    Residents Against the Breakaway, or Better Together, created by East Baton Rouge Parish residents against the incorporation, said online that the best way to solve the problem is by working together, not separating.


    Lionel Rainey III, spokesperson for the incorporation effort.

    This group said in a media release that 7,000 students would be displaced by the incorporation by be- ing forcibly displaced from their schools and that the new school district would create a major school capacity crisis for southeast residents.

    But Rainey said it’s just not true. He said students could go to the schools that will be built in the city of St. George, a school system that will be designed by the person who designed the gifted and talented program for East Baton Rouge Parish schools.

    “I don’t think that tens of thousands of students should suffer so you can have a great magnet school,” he said.

    District 7 Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle has been vocal about her opposition of the incorporation of St. George, citing it would hurt the city of Baton Rouge financially.

    “This is just a bad deal for Baton Rouge,” she said.

    Marcelle, whose mother lives in the St. George area, said the city has invested $300 million of infrastruc- ture out in that area. She added that it would be un- fair to receive and benefit from the improvements and then decide to break away.

    “When my mom moved out there, none of that was there,” she added as she talked about how the city has widened and improved streets in that area to enhance the city as a whole.

    Marcelle said that the fire and police department would suffer greatly along with the city from this incorporation. She also said that it would add more leaders, something that the parish does not need.

    “Duplication of government doesn’t make us stronger,” she continued.

    Marcelle said the council voting in favor of annexing the Mall of Louisiana, Our Lady of the Lake Hos- pital and Baton Rouge General Medical Center’s Bluebonnet Campus opens the doors for other businesses to come in as well.

    C Denise Marcelle

    District 7 Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle

    She said she expects LSU to come in automatically because part of their campus would be in St. George and the other in Baton Rouge with the new city’s borders. She also expects businesses such as L’Auberge Casino and Perkins Rowe to want to be annexed into Baton Rouge because of not wanting to go with the unknown. She said that if the city is incor- porated it could levy a tax as a new city to help build schools, city hall and pay the salaries of a mayor and council members.

    “I think they [St. George incorporation organizers] acted prematurely because they didn’t talk to these businesses. You should have them on board beforehand,” she said. “Perhaps they would have had a better outcome.”

    An LSU analysis of the economic impact of the in- corporation, jointly com- missioned by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the Baton Rouge Area Foun- dation, was published in December. It revealed that the incorporation would lead to significant reductions in public services, particularly police protection.

    The analysis, which was conducted pre Mall of Loui- siana annexation, stated that this effort would take $85 million, or 30 percent, from the East Baton Rouge Parish General Fund, which is mainly supported by sales taxes. Even with the mall out of the equation, there are still major sales tax gen- erators that contribute to this number.

    The study also showed that the incorporation would threaten economic development and job creation ef- forts due to fractured and duplicative regulatory and permitting processes and the interjection of sales tax competition between two cities currently considered one community.

    The study revealed that this effort would jeopardize retirement and post-employment benefit costs, unless the new city shares in legacy costs, which is an obligation of all taxpayers in East Baton Rouge Parish.

    Another issue highlighted is that the new city would cut funding for the EBRPSS even more than the break away district proposed in 2012 and 2013, mainly be- cause the proposed city has a larger geographic area with major destination retailers that produce sales taxes from people all over the parish.

    Supporters of this effort are still working to gather enough signatures to put the incorporation on the ballot for the Nov. election.

    Under the Lawrason Act, a petition must be cir- culated and signed by 25 percent of all registered voters located within the proposed new city before it can be submitted to the Registrar of Voters for cer- tification and ultimately the Governor, who will place the issue to be voted upon by proposed residents.

    Rainey would not release the number of petition signatures obtained but did say that they are well on their way of having the number needed to place this issue up for vote. He said he’s confident the sig- natures would be obtained by the deadline.

    Better Together has launched a signature removal campaign in addition to a petition of its own opposing the St. George incorporation.

    Marcelle, who started an effort years ago to annex several of the surrounding areas, said she looks forward to annexing other incorporated areas of Baton Rouge in the near future.

    “It should be what can we do better to make the city better, not what divisive can we do,” Marcelle said.


    Contributing Reporter 

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  • Richardson chosen for ‘Mr. Hammond High’

    Hammond High Senior CHASE RICHARDSON was chosen as Mr. Hammond High. He is a four-year letterman of the Robotics Team and serves as the Interact Club President, Beta Club Treasurer, and as the Vice-President of the HHMS Chapter of the National Honor Society. He is also a member of the Chess Club. Richardson plans to attend Southeastern Louisiana University in the fall taking pre- engineering courses before transferring to LSU to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

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  • For Winners Only

    Here’s look at the books written by Baton Rouge natives that have landed on THE DRUM staff’s bookshelf. These books are available in major bookstores and online.

    By Marvin Anderson
    Published by Insight Publishing Group. For Winners Only is  21-day journey to guide the reader to discover the winner within.

    Read more »
  • WHO TO WATCH: Myeshia Carter

    MYESHIA CARTER IS A 22-YEAR-old native of Baton Rouge. She grew up in a single parent home with seven siblings, where she was number six of her mother’s eight children.

    Growing up, Carter’s family was not always financially stable as they had to live on Section 8 Housing and other forms of government assistance for the majority of their lives.

    Carter did not come from a strong educational background neither her mother nor her six older siblings finished high school. Noticing this constant cycle of school drop outs, her siblings becoming single parents at young ages, and living on government as- sistance, at age 14, Carter decided she would break that cycle.

    She became the first of her sib- lings to attend high school. At Belaire High School, Carter was able to do extracurricular activities like play in the band and be on the slam poetry team. It is on the slam poetry team that she found an outlet, a way to let go of the pent up worries and anger about her home life.

    Writing poetry became Carter’s refuge as she let the world know her story. She became one of the six slam poets from Baton Rouge to compete nationally at Brave New Voices for two years consecutively. Competing at Brave New Voices gave Carter a chance to leave Ba- ton Rouge and travel throughout the United States where she was introduced to so many different people.

    That was the defining moment for her because she saw that there was a whole world out there waiting for her to explore and learn from. Travel- ing to these different places helped her to figure out that she wanted to leave Baton Rouge for college to learn more about the diverse world around her and find her place in it.

    During her se- nior year of high school, she became a fellow of the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition, where she was able to have men- tors to help her prepare for college and had access to resources she needed. With constant support from the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition, her lifelong mentor Daniel Kahn, the poetry slam team and her peers, Carter became the first of her seven siblings to graduate high school in 2010. But gradu- ating high school was only the beginning as she had other ambitions and bigger milestones to complete.

    Carter also became the first of her siblings to attend college, and to that, she attended one of the top Historically Black Colleges in America, Howard University, where she was an English major and business minor. At Howard, she pursued her dream of working in Corporate America as she spent some time at Google after her freshman year and also worked for PepsiCo Beverages Company as a sales intern her sophomore and junior years.

    After being denied the full internship with Google in their sales department, Carter did not allow that to stop her from achieving her goal to work in Corporate America. She reached out to an organization in her network called INROADS. INROADS is a program that helps minority students get into Corporate America by partnering with different companies.

    Through INROADS, Carter was afforded an interview with PepsiCo. Through each year in college and working for PepsiCo, she realized that it did not matter where she came from, that she did not have to be a product of her environment, and that she is limitless when it comes to defining success.

    On May 10, Carter graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. In July, she will take on her full time role as a sales associate at PepsiCo Beverages Company in New Orleans.

    Graduating college has been one of the biggest accomplishments of her life as she looks back to where she was in the past to where she is now.

    She is very humble that she had programs and peo- ple in her extended family network to motivate and push her. Her goal is to become CEO of a multibillion-dollar company and to be a great entrepreneur. She lives by the saying – “you are limitless for you are the only person who can keep you achieving greater heights.”

    Carter is looking forward to a promising future as she has many more milestones to reach, and she will do so confidently.

    Read more »
  • Luter, Johnson join Ponchatoula church in celebrating dedication

    PONCHATOULA— For more than eight years, the members of First True Love World Outreach Ministries believed they were building their sanctuary.

    Pastor Carl Coleman said, “It’s been a long, but a steady journey since construction began in June of 2005, and now the church congregation is enjoying the fruits of their hard labor.”

    In 2005, Coleman, began seeking financing for the construction, but was set back when a banker told him they will be charged a $20,000 fee to begin their loan. That when we decided we would build it in phases and pay for it as we went, he said. We built the church without incurring any debt.”

    First, builders poured the slab then started with beams for the building. Over time, a roof and walls were added and then the interior was filled with 2,200 sheets of sheetrock.

    “We brought the congregation on tours of the church five or six times during construction,” Coleman said. “It showed people what we were doing

    and kept them motivated. We had our first service in the new church Easter Sunday.”

    Now finished, the 30,000 square-foot church has a large sanctuary, several Sunday School classrooms, office space, seven bath room and many other features.

    church outside

    On May 28, the church hosted three nights of special services.

    Fred Luter Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist church in New Orleans, was the guest speaker.

    Guest speakers were Pastor Samuel Brown of Mt. Vernon and Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church of Hammond, while Bishop Raymond Johnson of Living Faith Center of Baton Rouge.

    While talking about the new church Coleman was proud, with a smile on his face, but humble in his soft-spoken mannerisms and giving all the credit to God. He attributed the growth of the congregation and building of the new church to God and good

    services, which led to the church spreading by word of mouth.

    Co1eman said the church’s capacity, as listed by the State Fire Marshal, is 1,184. The church has an average attendance of between 500 and 600 during Sunday services, but Coleman is planning for future growth.

    The old church was not large enough to hold that many people in one service, so there were two Sunday services.

    “The new church has more than enough room for the current congregation and room to grow,” he said. Sunday service at First Tine Love World Outreach Ministries begins with 8:30am Sunday School.. The church is located at 41239 South Range Road in Ponchatoula.

    By Eddie Ponds

    The Drum Publisher

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  • Local charter to open in Baker

    BAKER—IMPACT CHARTER Elementary, a locally operated, charter SCHOOL has broken ground to begin construction at 4815 Lavey Lane in Baker. Officials said the free public school will open its doors to students this fall.

    “We found Baker had the biggest need for the type of program we will have and that is what made [it] the best site for Impact,” said Chakesa Webb Scott, CEO of Impact.

    Impact will initially accept students in grades K-3 in its first year. Each subsequent year, the school will add an additional grade up to fifth grade.

    “We want to build an educational foundation with our students starting at the foundation and build on as they matriculate,” Scott said.

    Impact will function as a free public charter school. There are 200 students already enrolled with more students expected by the time school opens on Aug. 11.

    Former principal of Prescott middle Christopher Smith has been chosen to be the school’s academic leader.

    “We worked with and launched a regional search with the [help of the] Re- covery School District. Finding a principal who is already from the area and has charter experience will help us build a solid foundation,” Scott said.

    Construction on the 30,000 square-foot facil- ity began in early May and is expected to be completed in time for the school year opening. The school will have incorporated technology throughout the building, ranging from each classroom having its own air conditioner, to building a multipurpose media lab. The classrooms will also utilize a tool called the Doceri system, rather than old-fashioned chalkboards.  The upgraded system will allow teachers to apply lessons using an iPad projected on a screen.

    Impact will also be the first school in Baker to use the core knowledge curriculum.

    “Core knowledge curriculum has already seen suc- cess in other private schools in Baton Rouge,” Scott said. “This program emphasizes and focuses on the core subjects of math, history, reading and science but also includes art and music component – [it] also aligns with Common Core.”

    According to its mission statement, Impact Charter Elementary School will provide a rigorous core knowledge education for all students in a safe, supportive and challenging learning environment.

    While the school is still taking applications, kindergarten spots have been filled. The school will be the first charter to school provide transportation to students. Students living in Baker and some parts of north Baton Rouge will be receive transportation offered by the school.

    Impact is operated by Education Explosion Inc., a Baton Rouge-based non profit.

    The school’s administration office is located at 201 Sherron Avenue in Baker or call (225) 308-9565

    By Cameron James

    City News Manager

    Read more »
  • Smith introduces controversal sex education bills

    STATE REP. PATRICIA HAYNES- Smith introduced three bills in the education committee designed to alter the conversation on young people and sex in the state of Louisiana on May 13.

    With Louisiana’s two largest cities—New Orleans and Baton Rouge— constantly at the top of HIV infection lists, someone in every parish living with HIV and Louisiana ranking number five in regards to

    the rate of teen pregnancies, many say that something has to be done. One bill would allow nine questions about sexual practices to be added to a national survey that

    Louisiana teens all take. The next would mandate the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals analyze statistics regarding the pregnancy rates and sexual health of Louisiana teenagers.

    The most controversial was legislation that would mandate age appropriate sex education at all grade levels in Louisiana public schools. While the first two passed the committee, and are headed to the house floor, the sex ed. bill did not.

    Smith is very well known for her support of sex education. She has introduced measures to guar- antee it in the state of Louisiana since 2010.

    “I recognized that there was a major problem with teen pregnancy and began to delve into other statistics relating to this is- sue. Bills had been introduced in past legislative sessions and failed and yet the problem still existed. Having served on the school board in EBR, I recalled a town meeting where Dr. Holly Gallen questioned why we had not yet taken this on,” Smith said.

    With the overall conservative nature of the state of Louisiana, it is no surprise that the idea of discussing sex with K-12 students would be met with opposition.

    “The committee make up has changed over the years and has become more republican than before. I have gotten the bill out of committee before for it just to die on the house floor. The religious groups such as Family Forum and Catholic Bishops have always opposed the bill and the governor as well.  rates and have more influence over some legislators rather than them ing at the cold hard facts. And the problem is not going away,” Smith commented.

    There had been a great deal of discussion of what would be ‘forced upon’ Louisiana children if sex ed. legislation became law. However, there would be no stringent requirement—merely that there would be some form of sex education at all levels.”

    The bill did not dictate the curriculum but asked that it be age appropriate. There are many other states that have adopted curricu- lum and the Dept. of Education would have the sole responsibility of determining what would have been appropriate for Louisiana students.

    While the legislation to mandate sex education did die in the education committee, Smith said she remains hopeful about her other two bills. As far as the surveys go, she is hoping that adding those questions will allow the CDC to collect informa- tion that will be eye opening for state officials.

    “The survey can provide a snapshot of the risks stu- dents are taking regarding sex, It is a random selection process and is anonymous. If the sex questions are allowed, we can expect to see the CDC to make some recommendations on interven- tions,” she said.

    She said she feels that mandating that DHH officials prepare a report on teen sexual health in the state will be immensely important.

    “They do not do this at all. Perhaps this will begin a thought process on what to do about eliminating the high, STI, HIV rates and teen pregnancy,” she said.

    The next stop for the bill is the House Floor.

    By Terry Young Jr.

    Contributing Reporter

    Read more »
  • Crowning Glory: Beauty, Brains and Black

    The Miss USA beauty pageant has been held annually since 1952 to select the United States entrant in the Miss Universe pageant. This year the coveted crown will be given in Baton Rouge on June 8, at what will be by then, the newly renovated River Center.

    So far, only three women from Louisiana have ever won the title, and none have gone on to become Miss Universe, but that doesn’t mean that Louisiana women haven’t made a splash in the pageant organization – three titles is actually the median number of wins among the 32 crown-bearing states.

    In all of the years of Miss USA, women-of-color have also been scarce as title-holders. The first Asian American to win was Macel Wilson in 1962; the first Latina was Laura Martinez- Herring in 1985; the first Black was Carole Gist in 1990, who was also first runner-up to Miss Universe that year; and the first Miss USA of Middle-Eastern descent was Rima Fakin in 2010.

    Since Gist’s win in 1990, only five more Black women have won the Miss USA title, Kenya Moore (1993), Chelsi Smith (1995), Shauntay Hinton (2002), Rachel Smith (2007) and Crystle Stewart (2008).

    The reason there aren’t many winners-of-color is because there aren’t very many women-of-color entering the pageant. Roughly four to five women of color are competing at the state level and of course, to have more at the big pageant, one of them would have to win the state crown.

    In some states, that’s not so likely and in other’s, like Louisiana, those victories have only just begun happening within the last 10ears.

    In 2005, Louisiana USA awarded the crown for the first time to a Black woman –Candice Stewart.

    While Stewart acknowledges that she may inspire other Black girls to compete in pageants, she doesn’t want race to be so much the topic of conversation.

    “Beauty breaks all barriers – it’s not defined by skin color,” Stewart said.



    “One of the reasons I did it was to inspire other people. I feel like it is a predominately Caucasian-dominated field, so for me to be a person to break the mold that someone can look up to makes me just hope that people look back at my reign as Miss Louisiana and admire that.”

    Stewart began competing in 1999 at age 15 at the Miss Louisiana Teen USA pageant, placing first runner up. The following year Stewart won the pageant. Additionally she has also held the titles of Miss Teen Louisiana American Coed (2000) and Miss American Teen (2000).

    She competed for Miss Louisiana USA twice, receiving her opportunity to move on to the Miss USA pageant in 2005, while attending Xavier University of Louisiana in pursuit of a speech-language pathology and audiology degree.

    Stewart used her platform to help schools in her hometown Metairie and the Greater New Orleans area. “All of my family is in education, so I went in and spoke at a lot of public schools,” she said. “I encouraged the youth in the city that whatever their dreams are, you can accomplish and live them, because mine was Louisiana beauty pageants and I did it.”

    And while beauty may be a big portion of pageantry, to combat the beauty vs. brains concept, all Miss USA/Universe organization competitors are required to have an extensive resume that shows some form of education, community work and an already active platform.

    “All of the girls typically are educated or enrolled in school and do lots of extra-curricular activities,” Stewart said. “To say that you want to step on stage and have someone judge you, tests your brain power because you’re in an interview, and you not only have to be beautiful, but you also have to be able to express your views on what’s going on in your community and the world.”

    Stewart said that to be in a pageant, you have to be very disciplined. She equated discipline to being goal-oriented and that to success.

    “I believe that pageant women are very successful,” she said. Post pageantry, Stewart has earned her bachelor’s degree from Xavier,been an NFL cheerleader for the Houston Texans, opened up a small pageant coaching and image consulting business in the Houston area and competed on CBS’ Big Brother 15.

    Candice Stewart

    Candice Stewart

    She now works in her field as a pediatric speech therapist assistant.

    “My time as Miss Louisiana USA has far exceeded just a year,” Stewart said. “I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities to do a lot of great things.”

    Stewart said one of the most exciting things she has gotten to do since being crowned was going to Gabon to work with getting together the Miss Gabon Universe pageant and preparing the first Gabonese to compete at Miss Universe.

    While aged out of competing, Stewart said she still has a very close-knit tie to the pageant form.
    “I think that a pageant gives a girl a megaphone to give whatever message she has,” Stewart said. “For me, it was believing in the beauty of my dreams to accomplish any goal set. When you get a crown on top of your head, you already have an extra megaphone – people want to listen to you, they want to know your message.”

    But Stewart cautions, if you’re not willing to work, then you aren’t going to win. It’s a message that Baton Rouge area pageant coach and reigning Miss Louisiana International also lives by.

    For the past two years, regional transportation safety coordinator Ashley Hebert has represented Louisiana as a pageant queen, most recently as Miss Louisiana International 2013.

    Hebert’s first pageant was at age 27, when she took the title of Miss Black Louisiana USA. Already aged out of the Miss category, Hebert, now 29, held a platform long before she wore a crown.

    She competed in July at the 2013 Miss International Pageant in Chicago with a revamped version of her Miss Black Louisiana USA platform of education. It included a three step process, which was published in USA Today in 2012, to focus on the education of young girls and women.

    “Educational achievements for women have ripple effects within the family and across generations, so I focused more on ways to educate and empower young women through the areas I once worked on as Miss Black Louisiana USA 2012,” Hebert said.

    Hebert, who ranked in top 15 for the Miss Black USA Pageant, said her Miss International Pageant was nerve-wracking.

    “Many of my fellow contestants were career pageant girls with a history of pageants or crowns under their belts, so there was some anxiety there,” Hebert said. “But, once I arrived, I took some time to calm down, get my head on straight and got ready to compete and represent my state.”

    Stewart in Gabon

    Stewart in Gabon

    While Hebert’s reign ends soon, she plans to continue working toward her education platform and empowering young women. She holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from LSU, is on the advocacy board for the Capital Area Heart Association, is a member of the leadership council for The Cinderella Project and involved with their Leadership Academy to help young ladies get into college. Since being chosen as Miss Louisiana International by way of application and interview process, Hebert is working to bring the actual pageant to Louisiana.

    She also intends to continue work with Miss Congeniality Pageant Professionals, the company she started in 2012 to train girls how to win pageants and help queens maximize their reigns using all the knowledge she has gained in her two years as a queen. She said she knows that moreBlack women are going for titles because they have come to her for training.

    Hebert said she hasn’t really experienced racism in pageantry, but has had to over-explain the need for a Miss Black Louisiana pageant.

    “When people ask me why we need it and why there isn’t a Miss White Louisiana pageant too, I say there is – it’s Miss Louisiana,” Hebert joked.

    Hebert’s last appearance as queen was as a dancer at the Big Buddy annual fundraising event, Dancing with Big Buddy in May.

    “What I have learned as a queen is what it means to truly be a role model to young women of this state, which is an honor,” Hebert said. “I have learned that you must do more than preach a message these days, you must be the message to others.”

    Both Stewart’s and Hebert’s firms not only teach competitors how to win, but how to reign, choose appearances and speak as a queen.


    By Leslie D. Rose 

    Read more »
  • LA Democrats revel in past, plan for future


    EBR Parish Democratic Executive Committee hosts Banquet

    BATON ROUGE-A desire for change, growth and honor brought Democrats from all over Louisiana to East Baton Rouge Parish to celebrate the party’s history and make plans for the future.

    The event, “Remembering Our Roots: Every Man a King”, the first of what will be an annual banquet for the group, was held May 31 at the MJ Womack Center in Baton Rouge. It honored three EBR Democrats for their service to the party.

    “If we don’t remember the past we will not understand much of the present and have no conception of the future,” said former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards who served as the keynote speaker. “The past is important because we build on it to make things better.”

    L to r:Ben Jeffers, Dawn P Collins, Represenative Patricia Haynes-Smith, Louis Reine

    State Rep. Patricia Haynes-Smith was given the J.K. Haynes Sr. Award of Advocacy in Action; Louis Reine, president of American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations Louisiana was given the Victor Bussie Award of Excellence and the Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Ben Jeffers.

    “Receiving an honor from the party that I have worked hard for is a humbling and gratifying experience,” said Jeffers, who was honored for being the first Black person to serve as the Chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party.

    Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and John Bel Edwards discussed some of the issues the state is facing.

    “We have a charity hospital system in this state that has been in place since the 1700s, it has survived the civil war, the world wars, hurricanes, but it could not survive Bobby Jindal and the Republican majority,” Edwards said.

    Campbell pointed to some of the issues facing Louisiana, such as budget cuts and coastal erosion.

    “The state constitution says only domestic oil can be taxed,” Campbell said. “Since 1922 we refine 95% foreign oil in the state of Louisiana and only refine 5% Louisiana oil, but we only tax the oil refined in the state.

    Campbell continued that Louisiana’s biggest problem is coastal erosion and that every hour – land equal to the size of one football field – is being washed away from the state’s coast.

    Along with discussing issues facing the state, speakers highlighted the unity within the party.

    State representative Edward “Ted” James said that the beauty of the Democratic Party is that it is made up of a variety of ages, socio-economic backgrounds and races with similar ideas.

    “We will not be successful if we don’t give our resources, change will not happen if we continue to let this state be red,” James said. “If you can’t afford to write a thousand dollar check, you can give your time and call a thousand people, if you can’t call a thousand people you can knock on a thousand doors, we have to come together.”

    Representative Edward "Ted" James and Volunteer Maria Harmon

    Representative Edward “Ted” James and Volunteer Maria Harmon

    James said that the melting pot of citizens who come together with ideas and work hard to put them into action to create a better Louisiana is the party’s greatest asset.

    Maria Harmon, a volunteer for the East Baton Rouge Democratic Party, is one of those helping the party attain the assets James referenced.

    “Since I graduated this summer with my Masters I have been looking for a job,” Harmon said. “The hard work the Party has been doing inspired me to work voluntarily [with them] as I search”

    Harmon said as volunteer she learned no matter who a person is or where they come from. everyone is affected by the decisions made by elected officials.

    “There are so many issues affecting young people right now, such as budget cuts to higher education, health care, pay day lending and equal pay for women – all of these things affect us as young people,” she said. “A lot of younger people today are more progressive, more liberal and we need to have our voices heard.”

    Former governor Edwards is one of the pioneers for diversity among politics in Louisiana. During his time as governor, he appointed more Blacks and women to high positions in his administration than his predecessors anywhere in the nation.

    Edwards reflected on the first time he took the step to create racial equality by appointing the state’s first Black post master Huey Fontenot. He said its something he still considers one of his proudest moments.

    Councilwoman C.Denise Marcel

    Even though Edwards held acclaim for such doings, he is now more widely known for being convicted of 17 counts of racketeering, extortion, money laundering, mail fraud and wire fraud in 2001. He was sentenced to 10 years and was released in 2011.

    “At night I would reflect on how people supported me and how we worked together to better this state, how we were the voice for people who couldn’t speak,” Edwards said. “I’d sit and wonder what it would be like when I got out.  The last conscious thought I’d have would be for the people of Louisiana. All those concerns were washed away when I got out and realized you had not forgotten me.”

    Earlier this year Edwards announced he would run for the vacant seat on Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District.

    The Democratic Executive Committee had only six weeks to prepare for the event, making it clear that the banquet’s theme, inspired by Huey P. Long, still resonates with people in the capitol city and beyond.

    By Cameron James

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  • Southern University’s director of bands to retire

    Director of Southern University’s “Human Jukebox” Marching Band, Lawrence Jackson, is retiring this summer.

    “The best thing is that I’m leaving on my terms. I love everybody, I love Southern University and I have no problems,” he said. “This is the time I have chosen to retire.”

    Jackson’s official last day will be July 1. He has been the band director since 2006, after taking over for the late Dr. Isaac Greggs.

    “Southern University has been blessed to have Mr. Jackson lead the famed human jukebox and continue the great legacy left by former band directors Dr. Isaac Greggs and Dr. Ludwig Freeman,” said James Llorens Chancellor of Southern University

    Under Jackson’s direction, the marching band has maintained the national prominence it  gained under Greggs’ leadership.

    At the end of the 2013 football season the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) named its top college marching bands and the Human Jukebox finished second behind The Ohio State marching band.

    “To be recognized by the NCAA as the second best band, behind The Ohio State band is one of my highest moments. Ohio State has a million dollar budget and we have a bubble gum budget compared to them,” he said

    Jackson played in SU’s band from 1971 to 1975. Nicknamed “Crowley” after his hometown in Louisiana. During that time Jackson won several band awards including, most outstanding, top grade point average and he was a section leader.

    Nathan Haymer, Assistant Band Director, has been named the new band director.

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  • Are you ready to SACK it?

    HAPPY NEW YOU EVERYBODY! When I think about spring I think about all things fresh and brand new. I think of how the budding tree survived a brutal winter and is now bringing forth new life. I think about how some animals emerge from hibernation owning their place in the animal kingdom as if they never left. Then I think about you.

    Just as spring makes me think of new, so do you. In this moment and place in your life the opportunity to refresh and become anew is available. Ask yourself the question – have you too survived a harsh season in your life, like the tree in the winter – and you are now ready to bud with phenomenal possibilities? Are you ready to release yourself from a stagnant place and reclaim your territory like the animals within their kingdom?

    If you are in agreement to what I’ve said thus far or answered yes to any of the questions, it’s time for you to join the ranks of the Southern Jaguars and LSU Tigers in your personal spring training camp of life, and preparing to overcome the opponent that’s trying to block your new path.

    It’s Time to SACK IT!

    SACK is an acronym of action that I challenge many of my clients with. SACK means to See It, Accept It, Change It and Know It. So I now challenge you. I challenge you to look at your life and make an assessment and commitment to spring into better by SACK-ing whatever lies between you and the ball. You must win at this game called life.

    So let me coach you to your win. See It – This is the assessment stage of your life, where you look into at what has been, what is and what you envision to come and analyze what you did wrong, what you did right and what must be done differently.

    Accept It – Now you must accept whatever has happened.It simply is what it is. This is the part of the process in which you must take ownership of not just the hits, but also the misses.

    Challenge It –It’s time to make a decision that you are up for the win. Be intentional about what you want and make up your mind that you won’t settle for the small plays that will attempt to compromise your big win.

    Know It –Confidence in your new is a must. Therefore, an action plan and strategy must be in place to maintain that high level of confidence needed to conquer.

    So, there are four easy steps to spring you into a new you. Start practicing today for tomorrow’s win. I’m convinced you have enough strength to SACK it!

    Marvin Anderson is a speaker, author and owner of Insight Business Group, LLC, a coaching, consulting and success strategies company in Baton Rouge. 

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  • Chicken Shack continues seventh decade with new location

    SINCE THE TIME THOMAS DELPIT founded Chicken Shack in 1935—with less than a dollar in his pocket and only a third grade education—the restaurant has remained a fixture in Baton Rouge dining for 77 years.

    Many trials and tribulations have long setback the opening of new Delpit Enterprises restaurants and the company has even had to closed two restaurants over the years.

    But this summer, Joe Delpit expand the family-owned chain again when the third Chicken Shack restaurant opens at the former Popeye’s, 8372 Scotland Avenue, in North Baton Rouge.

    In 1958, Joe Delpit took over ownership of the restaurant that his father Thomas Delpit opened in the front portion of the family’s shotgun home on East Blvd.

    The Delpit dynasty began in 1950 when Thomas realized that his once small, sit-in restaurant had outgrown the home.

    “This was during World War II, and it was hard to get building materials, so my father gave a contractor almost $50,000 and he took the money and ran away,” said Joe Delpit.

    Undeterred by this setback Thomas was still able to open a new location. As the popularity of the Chicken Shack grew, so did the number of celebrities who came to eat including B.B. King and Count Basie. The Chicken Shack also served as a meeting place for Black social clubs who were not allowed

    in white establishments. Even after the death of his father, Joe wanted to uphold his dream of expanding the Chicken Shack throughout Baton Rouge. Delpit decided that the Rebel Shopping Center located in a predominantly white area—which is now where Baton Rouge Community College—would be the best location. He went back to bank to try to secure another business loan, but was denied.

    “I was not denied because the bank did not have faith in me. I was denied because there was high chance that some of the racists in the community would burn it down and the bank would lose their investment.” he said

    Undiscouraged, Joe Delpit put the plans to open another Chicken Shack on hold and continue to focus on the current restaurant – then politics.

    He became the first Black city councilman in Metro Baton Rouge and later became state representative for District 63. There he helped to establish the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus.

    All along, he never lost sight of the goal to open more Chicken Shack locations. So when the restaurant chain Jim Dandy was closing, Delpit saw his opportunity.

    As a politician, Delpit was able to make many connections – one of them was with the owner of a bank who was able to secure a $175,000 Small Business Administration loan to purchase three Jim Dandy locations on Terrace Street, Highland Road, and North Acadian Throughway.

    His childhood friend and former Chicken Shack employee Henry Batiste moved back to Baton Rouge and suggested the two open another Chicken Shack, as business partners.

    They purchased another location on Mohican and Pawtucket for only $12,000. They also opened a small store in Southern University’s Smith-Brown Memorial Student Union, which closed after new mangers contracted with the university. All, but the North Acadian location have since closed.

    Now adding a new location, Delpit said he believes it is likely to have more success than its closed predecessors.

    By Cameron James

    City News Manager

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  • Louisiana Divas

    By Cosha Hayes, Shawanga Hall, and Alicia Hardy
    Published by Branue Productions, three Louisiana women come together to tell their stories ranging from over-coming postpartum depression to understanding your gifts, to give readers the true definition of what being a Louisiana Diva really means. For more information click here

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  • Rutledge named Principal of the Year

    Sharmayne Rutledge was named East Baton Rouge Parish School system Principal of the year. She is principal Greenbrier Elementary. She is also a semi finalist for the Louisiana State Principal of the year.

    Read more »
  • The Michael Foster Project remembers Isaac Greggs

    The Michael Foster Project is one of the most sought after brass bands in Louisiana. Its founder, Michael Foster attended Southern University where he was a member of the “Human Jukebox” under the leadership of Isaac Greggs. It was there that he met many of his band mates. Members of the Michael Foster project who marched under Greggs’ leadership share some of the most valuable information they received from Isaac Greggs.

    Michael Foster – sousaphone

    Human Juke Box Member from 1985-1989

    “When he invited the seniors to join him at his table at the Zulu Club at the end of the Zulu Parade.  Being in the band wasn’t easy, but if you worked hard and marched all four years, you knew you earned a seat at the table with Doc. He would offer you some of his special cognac. Just knowing that you made it four years and you earned the right to be at that table with him was my best memory of him.”

    Rod Jackson – saxophone

    Human Juke Box Member from 1995 to 1999

    “He saw something in me as a saxophone player before I took an interest in jazz music.  He took me into his office and gave me three cassette tapes – he gave me a Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon tape and a Coltrane tape. I still have those tapes, listen those artist and apply what I’ve learned from them to how I play today.”

    Jeremy Thomas -trumpet

    Human Juke Box Member from 2003 to 2006

    “A lot of the wisdom he was able to pass down to me was just well received. I had a young, fertile mind and so everything he said, I soaked up. He was very wise man, he would say things like “The tallest building will fall if it doesn’t have solid roots.””


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  • America needs to save hurting Nigerian girls

    I WOULD LIKE NOTHING MORE than to hear on the news that our FBI or Navy Seals have found and saved the 276 kidnapped girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram. There are reports that some of the girls have already died or are sick due to poisonous snakebites. They and their families are suffering. They need help.

    Boko Haram has led a five-year Islamic uprising in Nigeria that has taken the lives of thousands of people, both Muslimand Christian. Just this week an attack on Gamboru, which is on the border of Cameroon, took the lives of 300 people.

    In recent weeks Boko Haram’s regime has been responsible for the kidnapping of 276 young girls and is threatening to sell them into slavery. This year alone, at least 1,500 people have been killed by this terroristic group. Nigeria is a nation of approximately170 million people. The country is half Muslim and half Christian. The religious regime feels that Western influences are corrupting Nigeria and that a Muslim state must be enforced.

    Abubakar Shekau is the leader of Boko Haram which means, western education is a sin. Shekau has been in hiding with his ruthless and depraved army in the Sambisa Forest. The forest is reportedly 23,000 square miles of thick, tall vegetation filled with poisonous snakes, lions and monkeys. It is extremely

    difficult to navigate. There is no place in our world for this kind of ideology car- ried out in the name of religion. Shekau and his militant blood- thirsty supporters are deranged psychos who wreak misery on any- one with whom they

    come into contact. America cannot run to every nation and put out every fire. Ukraine, Syria, Egypt and many other places are filled with serious problems and could use our help. I do not believe we are the world’s police.

    Nigeria is considered a very poor country but their economy is growing. They are Af- rica’s largest oil pro- ducer with billions of dollars in oil sales. Unfortunately most of the Nigerian wealth is in the hands of a few people and corruption abounds from busi- ness to government.

    They seriously need to utilize some of their oil money to develop a stronger military and police force to protect them.

    America cannot take care of every- body. However, try- ing to help Nigeria develop a better de- fense is something we should do and I hope we can be successful. This shouldn’t require five thousand troops. However, it may require our government sending FBI, Navy Seals, or whoever to locate and deal with Abubakar Shekau. Surely we have one drone just for him.

    by Glenn Mollette

     a national columnist 

    Read more »

      Bring back our girls. Bring back our daughters. Bring back what was stolen and taken to be used unapologetically in a way that no girl or woman should ever have to experience. How do you go on living your day-to -day lives knowing the hard truth about our daughters, nieces, granddaughters, and cousins? Our […]

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  • New UREC leaders appointed

    The Board of Directors for Urban Restoration Enhancement Corporation ,UREC, has appointed two Baton Rouge community and business leaders to key board offices. CATHY DENSON, assistant vice president of Commercial Banker Bank at Red River Bank, has been appointed chair of the board, while GIRARD J. MELANCON, PH.D., executive director for adult and continuing education at Baton Rouge Community College, has been appointed vice chair.

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  • National museum to feature Bayou Classic, HBCUs

    WASHINGTON—Southern University, Grambling State University, and other historically Black universi- ties will be featured in the National Museum of Afri- can American History and Culture when it opens in Washington DC in spring 2016.

    The museum is the only national museum devoted to documenting the history and culture of Black Americans.

    With a primary focus on its legendary football program, GSU will be joined by a section featuring longtime GSU head football coach Eddie G. Robinson. In addition, there will be an area dedicated to the Bayou Classic.

    Other historically Black universities scheduled to be featured in the museum include Howard, Florida A&M, Tennessee State, and Tuskegee universities.

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  • Congressman wants reparations

    WASHINGTON—U.S. REP. John Conyers Jr. said he will re-introduce in the 113th Congress legislation that calls for a seven member commission to study reparations for Black people in the United States.

    “It is the most impor- tant piece of legislation I have ever in- troduced, and I will re-intro- duce HR40 in the 113th Congress,” Cony- ers (D., Mich.) told the 400 attendees at the “Revitalizing The Reparations Movement” conference ear- lier this month at Chicago State University. The 113th Congress first met Jan. 3, 2013.

    He made his comments in the wake of 14 Caribbean nations demanding reparations and apology from Britain and other Eu- ropean countries for the trans-Atlantic slave trade. If the countries fail to ne- gotiate with the Caribbean nations, they will sue them in the World Court, which is located in The Hague, The Netherlands. Thus far, Sweden is the only country that has indicated a will- ingness to negotiate reparations.

    Conyers said the ac- tions by the Caribbean nations will revitalize the reparations movement in the United States. “I think it is going to be a spring- board for reparations,”he said.

    Conyers first introduced the legislation, titled “Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act,” in 1989 during the 101th Congress. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where Conyers is the ranking member.

    The eight-page piece of legislation, which was co-introduced by U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (D., Va.), said the 4 million Africans and their descendants were en- slaved in the United States and colonies that became the United States from 1619 to 1865. The government sanctioned slavery from 1789 through 1865, enabling it to flourish. At the same time, it deprived Africans of life, liberty, citizenship rights, and their cultural heritage. In addition, slavery denied them the fruits of their own labor.

    The Commission to Study Reparation Propos- als for African Americans Act would study the lin- gering negative effects of slavery and discrimination and recommend appropri- ate remedies in consider- ation of the Commission’s findings. In addition, the Commission would exam- ine defacto discrimination against freed slaves and their descendants from the end of the Civil War to the present, including economic, political, and social discrimination.

    The Commission will hold hearings and submit a written report.

    Conyers said he wants to hold hearings in Wash- ington, D.C., about repa- rations for African Americans.

    “If the Republican Congress blocks the hearings, I will hold them throughout the country,” he said.

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  • Artists unveil school mural

    THE VISUAL ART DEPARTMENT of Central High School recently unveiled a completed mural of a Louisiana landscape scene. The mural was designed by the tal- ented art senior students of and painted by talented art seniors MATTHEW GUIDRY and OR’RON CLARK.

    The Talented Art Program in the Central School District provides instructional services to students who have been identified by state assessment as having artistic commitment, possessing above average creativity, and advanced artistic skills

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  • Planting love for Mom

    MORE THAN 10,000 MOTHERS IN the Baton Rouge area received a Mothers Day gift that will keep on giving, thanks to
    Rotolo Pizza’s “Homegrown Love for Mom” program. The pizzeria collected cups to give to elementary school students
    throughout Baton Rouge–like the ones pictured from Dufroq Elementary– who prepared tomato plants for their mothers. The program encourages recycling, teaches students basic gardening techniques, and encourages healthy eating. “Programs such as Homegrown Love for Mom provide us with the opportunity to give back to the community, share our passion for pizza, and give hard-working moms a gift they can share with their families,” said Mitch Rotolo, founder and CEO of Rotolo’s Pizzeria.

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  • Coca-Cola, Pepsi Co drop controversial ingredient

    AS A RESULT OF CUSTOMER feedback and a petition on Change. org, Coca-Cola is dropping the controversial ingredient—br0minated vegetable oil—from Powerade.

    A petition started by a Mississippi teenager noted that an active ingredient in Powerade is linked to a flame retardant and is not approved for use in Japan or the Europe- an Union. The Food and Drug Administration told the Associated Press that brominated vegetable oil is used as a stabilizer for flavoring oils in fruit flavored drinks.

    Last year, PepsiCo said it would drop the ingredient from Gatorade. At the beginning of this month, bottles of Powerade in strawberry lemonade and fruit punch flavors being sold in the Detroit, Omaha, Washington DC, and New York areas no longer list the ingredient.

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  • Spread the truth about Black graduates not myths

    LONG ISLAND TEENAGER Kwasi Enin captured national headlines after becom- ing part of an impressive club: high school seniors who have been accepted into all eight Ivy League schools. However, while many celebrated Enin’s achievement, a bitter minority griped that the teenager had somehow gamed the system. The racial subtext was obvious – Enin couldn’t have actually have gotten into all those schools by himself. Why? Well, because he’s Black.

    This type of harmful and wholly inaccurate narrative has been constructed around Black male student achievement for years. Enin is just the latest high profile example of how it hurts all young men, high school high-achievers or not, by implying that the majority of Black boys are hopelessly behind and may never be able to narrow the achievement gap.

    There are, of course, legitimate issues that Black male students face due to a confluence of factors. But even data that shows the
    more dire aspects of Black male achievement does not exist in a vacuum, with researchers misrepresenting or not calculating for the experiences of Black male students.

    The good news is that bright spots like Enin may help raise the profile of America’s Black young men. However, there is a lot of work to be done, beginning with rethinking the way we use these seven common myths.

    MYTH 1. There are more Black males in prison than college.

    Black men are grossly over- represented in the penal system. However, there are more Black males in college than in prison, as of 2011. Howard Univer- sity professor and Baton Rouge na- tive Ivory A. Told- son found in his research that there are about 600,000 more Black males enrolled in higher education than are in jail.

    This myth has been used by education experts, the media and even President Barak Obama, despite the fact that over the last decade, Black boys have largely avoided the school-to-prison pipeline.

    MYTH 2. Less than 50% of Black males graduate from high school.

    The high school drop- out rate for Black males has actually hit a his- toric low. According to a 2013 Education Week study, about 62% of Blacks completed high school in 2010 (the most recent year for which the necessary data was available), com- pared to 80% of white stu- dents. The increase repre- sents a 30% narrowing of the gap between Black and white high school students.

    Indeed, Black males are graduating at historic levels. According to the Schott Foundation for Pub- lic Education, in 2009-10 the national graduation rate for Black male students was 52%. The graduation rate for white, non- Latino males was 78%. This is the first year that more than half of the nation’s Black males in 9th grade graduated with regular diplomas four years later. At the same time, overall high school dropout rates have decreased steadily since 1990, and there is no indication that the rates won’t continue to fall, given the trend over the past two decades.

    MYTH 3. Black males don’t go to college.

    According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 1976 to 2010, the percentage of Black students [enrolled in college] rose from 9% to 14%. During the same period, the percentage of white students fell from 83% to 61%.

    The Congressional Black Caucus report “Chal- lenge the Status Quo,” meanwhile, found that there are 12.5 million Black adult males living in Amer- ica, who make up 5.5% of the total population, and 5.5% of the students on college campuses across America are Black male students. The percentage of Black male students en- rolled in college is proportional to the 5.5% of Black men college-age or above living in the U.S. today.

    MYTH 4. Black student-athletes graduate at higher rates than their non-athlete Black peers.

    Often college coaches boast about how teamwork and sportsmanship trans- late to academic success. However, according to a University of Pennsylvania report on Black male stu- dent-athletes in NCAA Divi- sion I college sports, 50.2% of Black male student-ath- letes graduate within six years, compared to 55.5% of Black undergraduate students overall. And the disparity is even larger if Black male student-ath- letes are compared to other student athletes: 66.9% of overall student-athletes graduate within the same six-year period, represent- ing an 11.4% gap between Black student-athletes and their teammates.

    MYTH 5. Black male students have the same opportunities as their peers.

    This is an important one, part of the narrative that allows casual racism like the kind experienced by Kwasi Enin. In fact, a recent U.S. Education De- partment’s 2011-2012 Civil Rights Data Collection sur- vey noted that the Ameri- can school system treats Black boys unfairly. Black male students receive a disproportionate number of suspensions, detentions and call-outs, and have a much higher rate of being expelled from school. In addition, schools attended by Black males have less ac-

    cess to experienced teach- ers and advanced place- ment classes, according to the survey.

    At the same time, the Casey Foundation recently found that Black students face the highest barri- ers to opportunities. The foundation’s researchers measured success toward 12 benchmarks, including literacy proficiency, rates of employment, income and several other factors. The report concluded that Blacks, when compared to other racial groups us-

    ing these benchmarks, fare the worst due to disparities they face from birth.

    MYTH 6. Black male students are underachievers.

    Coded language and misused statistics have constructed this idea that Black male students are underachievers. But ignoring the fact that some of America’s brightest minds are Black, recent research shows that a lack of critical feedback and demonstrated high expectations is stiflingBlack confidence in the classroom.

    In three do ble-blind randomized field experiments, researchers at the University of Texas found that Black students improve their grades af- ter having the assignment expectation reinforced by their teachers. These results point out that a cycle of mistrust and lower ex- pectations is a likely culprit in cases of Black underperformance.



    Special to The Drum

    twitter: @sirsargent 

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  • No love like self-love

    May is National Masturbation Month. The celebration of May as National Masturbation Month began in 1995 in San Francisco as a response to the forced resignation of then U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. Elders made history as America’s first Black Surgeon General.

    After a speech at the United Nations World AIDS Day in 1994, an audience member asked Elders about masturbation’s potential for discouraging early sexual activity. She answered, “I think it is something that is part of human sexuality and a part of something that perhaps should be taught.” That statement was the end of Elders’ career as America’s first black Surgeon General.

    Masturbation can be defined as an act of self-love. It’s an essential tool for self-awareness and enhancing our most intimate relationships.

    Like partner sex, solo sex is one of the most gratifying human experiences we have. Many of us live life at a frenetic pace – rushing through most everything we do in our lives. Too often, masturbation is simply done as a quick, easy means to achieve orgasm. Seldom do we consider the sensual component of solo sex. If we took our time and focused our thoughts and energy on the erotic pleasures that our own touch can offer us, we would soon discover just how sensuous autoeroticism could be.

    Self-pleasure can be just as fabulous as actual intercourse as you can masturbate whenever you want. You’re free to experiment with fun, sometimes-unusual sex toys, without worrying about being judged or hurting anyone’s feelings. Who knows what gets you off better than you? Plus, you don’t need to stock up on condoms or worry about birth control. Self-pleasure is always exactly as short or long as you want it to be, so go ahead and be selfish! Self-love is the BEST love!

    You’ll never wake up regretting what happened last night. No one will care if your nether regions haven’t been trimmed in weeks. Yes, pubic hair is apparently making a comeback, but seriously, your vibrator couldn’t care less how you wear your bush.

    When we allow ourselves adequate time for self-pleasuring, our erotic mind and body are given sufficient time to reveal their secrets. We soon learn firsthand:

    What turns us on and off.

    What makes us feel sexy and uninhibited.

    What erogenous zones are most arousing.

    What feels good when done slow and gentle or hard and fast.

    How long we like to be stimulated.

    How sensitive our genitals are.

    The best way to reach orgasm.

    How to expand our sexual capacity into multiple orgasmic bliss!

    Choose a time and place to tempt your inner sex God or Goddess to come out and play and a time of day or evening when you are assured lengthy privacy. Consider a location that you feel comfortable, safe and uninhibited such as the bedroom, shower or bath. Turn off the phone and lock the door or do whatever you have to do to ensure privacy. Gather together any items you think you would want or need – lubricant, lotions, food, towel, a mirror, sensual fabrics, pillows, sex toys and erotic photos or literature. Creating a time and place for your erotic self-pleasuring will make you feel relaxed, sexy and free.

    Use your imagination rather than porn. Not only does watching porn leave nothing to the imagination, it provokes a fast-and-furious release making it one of the leading causes of premature ejaculation in men. By using our imagination instead of porn during masturbation, we prolong the intensity and duration of our pleasure. If you have difficulty using your imagination during solo sex, try using erotic photos or reading erotic literature. Some tantric sex instructors recommend using images of just the genitals of the opposite sex.  Find what works best for you.

    Engage ALL of your senses. To truly experience a luxurious session of self-play, engage as many of your senses as you can – sight, sound, smell, taste and of course, touch.

    Sight: Consider masturbating in front of a mirror. Watch closely as arousal transforms your body into a sensuous scene. Notice the changes in your skin tone especially around your genital area. Become your own sensual trigger.

    Sound: Include whatever music turns you on and makes you feel sexy during your next solo session. Also pay attention to the sounds you make when becoming aroused – the groans, moans, whimpers and sighs.

    Smell: Use erotic-scented candles or lotions such as jasmine or lavender when masturbating. Scent is a powerful memory trigger. Use it during solo sex and then again for partner sex to help you recall the pleasure of your sexual sessions. When we become aroused, we emit a scent – notice if you can detect yours the next time you are masturbating.

    Taste: Lick yourself all over – from your fingertips down the rest of your body. Add the occasional nibble. Taste yourself – add a touch of honey or whipped cream to the experience if you like.

    Touch: Caress, tickle and touch your entire body especially your erogenous zones. Spend time discovering what rhythm and stroke feels best, especially against your genitals. Rub your body with fur, velvet, silk, satin, ice, oil, honey or lotion. Revel in the different sensations.

    Regular self-pleasuring increases our capacity for pleasure. The more pleasure we get, the more we want. The more we learn to enjoy, the more we can handle. We soon discover that orgasm is not a goal to be achieved quickly for the process is just as rewarding. By slowing down and taking ample time to focus on our own complete sensual fulfillment through sexual self-love we learn to become truly great lovers to both ourselves and our partners.

    Get naked and enjoy the sound and scent of your own body. Let go of the pressure, enjoy touching and exploring what feels good. You’ll find that as soon as you release the pressure of reaching the Big-O, the juices will flow! Simply relax. Breathe and be patient. Self-pleasure and knowing what turns you on takes time. You are your own teacher, soon to be your own master.

    The silence and shame that shadow masturbation have long and deep roots. Beyond religious condemnation, the practice was not long ago considered an affliction for which medical doctors used the cruelest of instruments and techniques to control. Yet, women with hysteria were also medically treated by being masturbated by the physicians who eventually built elaborate room sized vibrators to take over the handwork of bringing women to orgasm.

    Back in 1995, Good Vibrations launched National Masturbation Month to protest the firing of Clinton appointed U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders. Conservative members of the administration blasted Elders when she responded to questions regarding safe sex by saying that “Masturbation is something that perhaps should be taught.”

    Getting over our discomfort with masturbation and healthy sexuality is not just important for ourselves, but even more so for the next generation. Opening the dialogue with the young people in your life and normalizing the language of sexuality is one of the most important steps you can take to build sexual health into your family’s future.

    Sigmund Freud said, “The only thing about masturbation to be ashamed of is doing it badly.” Indeed, masturbation is one of the healthiest behaviors we can add to life. It helps maintain genito-urinary health and teaches us to become and remain responsive sexual partners. Learning how to experience pleasure alone can have a meaningful impact on a number of sexual problems between couples.

    Accepting the full responsibility of our own sexual nature, needs and preferences is the gift you bring to a healthy sexual relationship with someone else. There is no wrong or right way to masturbate so don’t dismay. You can be dressed or undressed, sitting up or lying down, whatever feels good for you is the right way. Get to know your body, every nook and crevice could be holding some sensual delight, if you don’t explore – you won’t find out. So get naked and empower yourself!

    By Hasina Ifra

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  • ‘But eating healthy is so hard’

    THERE’S NO LOGIC BEHIND THE MODERN DAY PHILOSOPHY OF “eating healthy is hard to do”. It’s not hard, but it does take willpower and a few adjustments and by making those minor changes, you can actually make a huge difference in your health.

    Let’s take one of America’s favorite dishes for example, good ole spaghetti. Why do we like it so much? Well, it’s pretty much the easiest meal to make. Most of us go right into the supermarket, buy the cheapest pack of spaghetti noodles (usually the generic brand), our favorite sauce (which is why we got generic spaghetti noodles – to afford the sauce) and the cheapest ground meat we can find (again, we really want to make sure the sauce tastes the best). We then rush home to prepare it and in about 25-30 minutes – BAM – we are instant chefs.

    Now let’s go back to the supermarket and take it a little slower. We grab the spaghetti noodles, but instead of grabbing the cheapest brand, let’s just look at some other options. Most of the cheaper brands are made with enriched white flour. The problem with the word “enriched” is that you think it means something good— in the tricky food industry, not so much. Enriched flour is flour in which most of the natural vitamins and minerals have been extracted. This is done in order to give it a finer texture, increase shelf life and prevent bugs from eating it. The crazy thing is that even bugs will die if they attempt to live off it.

    You read that right, bugs will die if they attempt to live off of it, yet the Food and Drug Administration says it’s perfectly fine for us. It makes absolutely no sense, but we do have options. Let your eyes wander over to whole-wheat noodles. Whole wheat is better for your body and your overall health – just read the ingredients label as some wheat is enriched as well. Okay, so maybe you’re not a fan of those noodles, there are still other healthier options. You can find some pretty inexpensive vegetable based noodles in most grocery stores. These are made from a variety of vegetables ranging from zucchini to tomatoes, and in some cases even both. Personally, I like the zucchini based pasta noodles with my spaghetti because it heightens the flavor of the sauce.

    Now, if you have selected one of the better pasta choices then you have already upped the health ante on your easy spaghetti. Let’s just move on to your

    favorite sauce. This is actually the easier part because most spaghetti sauces aren’t that bad for you health wise.

    Again, look at the ingredients label to make sure you can pronounce al the ingredients and to ensure that it’s not loaded with added sugars or meat. The preloaded meat sauce just isn’t a good thing. I mean think about it, would you eat meat that has been sitting on a shelf in a jar for who knows how long? If you want to add a little health kick to your sauce, then get the ones with more chunky vegetables. The added veggies will be good for you. Spend a little money too, the more expensive the sauce, the better the quality of ingredients and the better the taste.

    It’s finally time to select the meat for your spaghetti! I’m going to make this pretty simple, if you pinch a penny to save on anything, let it be so you can save to afford a better quality of meat. The truth is, the more expensive the meat, the better it is for you. Select a ground chuck over a ground beef. Yes, it will cost a little more, but the quality will be a lot healthier for you. Ground chuck will contain less fat and more nutrients and protein than ground beef. You can also look at ground turkey as an option. The average price of ground turkey is 35 cents lower than ground beef, and you can also get ground turkey in a fat free option for the same low price. Or why not try veggie style spaghetti, forgoing all the meat content for extra zucchini, or chunks of fresh cut tomatoes or even a few broccoli trees added for an extra protein kick. Why not try all three?

    All in all, these simple things may only end up adding a couple of dollars to your spaghetti if you incorporate all three – maybe a few cents just trying one or two of the options. Either way, you’ll win by making a choice that will benefit you in the long-term commitment of health. Aren’t you worth those few extra dollars? I think you are. I think you’ve worked hard enough that it’s time you reward yourself with a simple and decent healthy meal. It’s time to treat yourself right – you deserve it!


    By Alvin Temple

    Alvin A. Temple is a wellness coach, owner of Pure Yoga.



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  • Tips to Reduce Allergens in Your Home this Season

    Many people seek refuge indoors around this time of year, when outdoor air is full of pollen and other allergens. For allergy sufferers, however, the air indoors can prove to be just as problematic.

    Dust that collects in a home contains common household allergens such as dust mite particles and animal dander. If dust is disturbed from furniture, hard surfaces and carpet, those allergens can become airborne and reduce indoor air quality.

    May is designated National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, and it is an excellent time to make your home cleaner and healthier by removing common household allergens and improving your indoor air. Even if you don’t have asthma or allergies, everyone can benefit from better indoor air quality.

    “The way you clean your home is important. Most household cleaning routines only re-circulate allergens throughout your home rather than removing them,” said Justin Bates, president of Stanley Steemer, International, Inc. “If your cleaning routine doesn’t specifically focus on dust and allergen removal, you may be only moving them around, sending allergens back into the air.”

    To maximize your cleaning efforts while reducing allergens, consider these simple tips.

    • Dust hard surfaces regularly with moist cloths or special dry dusters designated to trap and lock dust.

    • Wash your bedding and linens often. Doing so can help you control dust mites in your home.

    • Vacuum often. Although cleaning can sometimes trigger allergic reactions by releasing dust into the air, vacuuming floors once or twice a week will reduce surface dust and allergens. Make sure your vacuum has a high efficiency air filter to capture dust.

    • Use a certified professional carpet cleaning service to deep clean your carpets to remove the stains, spills and dust that regular vacuuming leaves behind. Be sure to use a service that’s qualified to reduce allergens in the home. Stanley Steemer’s Professional Carpet Cleaning service is the first to be certified asthma and allergy friendly by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

    Independent testing proved Stanley Steemer’s proprietary cleaning process removed 94 percent of common household allergens, including 92.8 percent of cat dander, 97.8 percent of dog danger and 91.4 percent of dust mite allergens. The process also reduces exposure to bacteria and mold by 90 percent within 24 hours of cleaning. AAFA recommends a certified professional carpet cleaning every three to four months.

    • Protect yourself when doing housework by wearing a mask. After cleaning, consider leaving for a few hours to avoid allergens in the air.

    • Reduce pet dander. If you have allergies, don’t keep pets with feathers or fur, such as birds, dogs and cats in your home. Animal saliva and dead skin, also known as pet dander, can cause allergic reactions. If you already have a pet, keep it out of the bedroom.

    • Shut out pollen. Inspect your windows for a film of pollen on the frame or sill. Prevent pollen from entering your home by keeping windows and doors closed. Use an air filter and clean it regularly or run the air conditioner and change the filter often.

    Over 70 million Americans suffer from asthma and allergies. If you’re one of them, be proactive. National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month is the perfect time to eliminate triggers in your home so you can breathe more easily. A cleaner home is a healthier home.


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  • Black families becoming more aware of autism

    As Camille Proctor watched her one year-old son, she knew something wasn’t right. He played with others and enjoyed affection, but he never spoke. He also walked on his toes. His pediatrician assured Proctor that was son was probably just developmentally delayed.

    At 15 months old, she learned that wasn’t the case – he was officially diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.

    “My son didn’t have the telltale signs, but I figured it out without the diagnosis. I had to basically force a diagnosis for my son so he could get the services he needed,” Proctor says. “But it was hard because now I had a name for what his problem was, but that wasn’t helpful for me going through it every day.”

    Autism diagnosis rates are skyrocketing. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 1 in 88 children had a disorder on the spectrum. By last month, that number had jumped 30 percent to one in 68 children.

    Although autism rates are highest among whites, particularly males, studies show that African-American children are usually diagnosed much later than their white counterparts.

    Because little is understood about autism, information and resources are hard to come by, especially for families of color. Because of that, in 2009, Proctor launched The Color of Autism, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocacy, awareness and knowledge among Black parents, connecting families to local services, and providing one-to-one support.

    “I have exhausted my 401(k) and my son’s father did too, because nobody told us all we needed to do was fill out this 100-page document, get it approved, and he could get all these services for free,” Proctor stated. “I only found out because another parent at my son’s swim class asked if I was going to put him in hippo­therapy [therapeutic horseback riding targeted for autism], but I said I couldn’t afford it. And she told me Medicaid would pay for it.”

    Part of the dearth of information aimed at Black families is because concerted, grounded research did not begin until the 1980s (before then, ASD therapy consisted of electroshock therapy, institutionalization, and drugs). Few resear­chers have chosen to examine how the spectrum manifests in people of color.

    A research team at the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment is working to change that. Dr. Daniel Geschwind and his team have been identifying and studying the genetic causes of autism, how those genetic anomalies manifest in ASD symptoms, and how treatments can be designed around this information. Last year, Geschwind was awarded a $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to expand his research to study African-American genes.

    “After 10 or 12 years of doing this…I started to realize that from a public health standpoint, it’s time to apply the success [of previous research] to other groups. We lead the field in finding these genes, and I think the next step is the inclusion of underrepresented minority groups in genetic studies—I feel very strongly about that,” Geschwind says. “It’s incredibly important because now, when a person with European genes comes into the [Autism Center] clinic, there’s a 1 in 10 or 1 in 5 chance we can get a diagnosis for them. We assume that would be almost essentially the same for someone with African ancestry, but we actually don’t know.”

    Geschwind explains that in genetic testing, it is important to retain the data’s power—a measure of its validity. That power is undermined by a diverse sample of DNA—if dissimilar DNA samples are compared, it’s hard to tell whether an effect is because of autism, or attributable to the genetic differences. Since DNA from white Americans is most ubiquitous and easiest to recruit, researchers tend to only study this population.

    And since Black Americans have a calamitous history with medical research, it’s even harder to find willing participants. Without willing participants, there is little to no data tailored specifically to African Americans.

    One aspect of raising a child with autism that rings acutely for parents of Black children, particularly boys, is the risk of wandering.

    Last October, 14 year-old Avonte Oquendo wandered out of his school in Queens, N.Y. unbeknownst to his teachers and staff for nearly 15 minutes. After a three-month citywide search, his remains were found along the East River.

    “Very rarely does a case of wandering from school end like [Oquendo’s] but this shows it can,” says Lori McIlwain, co-founder and executive director of the National Autism Association, and founder of the Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response and Education Collaboration. “Wandering happens from every setting, and people need to be aware, schools and teachers need training. We need to all work together on this.”

    From Oquendo’s death came a push for “Avonte’s Law,” and other wandering legislation. Avonte’s Law introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY.), centers on providing voluntary tracking devices to parents of autistic children who wander or bolt. According to AWAARE, tracking devices are a small start.

    “A multilayered approach is what [AWAARE] recommends. Tracking is just one component of that,” McIlwain explains. “We hope that with any kind of change to laws, that wandering prevention will be added. We’ve given our suggestions to Senator Schumer’s office, and we also approached the Department of Education with a list of requests to address this on the school side, because of 30 percent of parents report wandering from schools.”

    McIlwain has a son on the spectrum who is prone to wander and bolt. In the worst incident, he left a playground and made his way toward a highway, where a Good Samaritan found him. Because her son is nonverbal, it took some time to find out where he belonged.

    Proctor’s son wanders as well, especially when he was a toddler. The family dog would follow him, knock him over, and subdue him until an adult came to the rescue.

    “I think this legislation needs to be pushed,” she says. “There’s no reason Avonte should be able to walk out of his school in New York City and Al Sharpton is not all over that. I don’t see anybody out marching for [Avonte]. I’m glad the legislation is being done by a white legislator, and I’m okay with everybody advocating for our kids, but I want to see us advocate for our kids so everyone knows that they are valuable.”

    Proctor’s organization, The Color of Autism, offers resources for parents starting from the first 100 days after a diagnosis. She is also trying to fund a film, Screaming in Silence, a documentary about the affects of autism in African American families.

    “I always ask Black parents concerned about the autism label, ‘Would you rather the label 1234567?’ And they say, ‘What’s that?’ I say, ‘It’s an inmate number.’ Because that’s what’s going to happen to your child when he begins to act out, without a diagnosis or a mental chart somewhere. Nobody cares about a Black child after puberty,” Proctor says. “Autism is not a death sentence. We need to team up and support our own community.”


    By Jazelle Hunt

    NNPA Washington Correspondent

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  • Plaquemine native lands spot on new MTV series

    Touring with Trey Songz and outselling Beyoncé on iTunes Japan are just two accomplishments pushing singer Justin Garner to the forefront of the music industry.

    And now, MTV has taken notice of his talent.

    Garner will appear on the network’s new music competition series Copycat this summer.

    Copycat places singers in head to head competition where they battle to see who can cover some of the most popular songs, from artists ranging from Usher to Katy Perry. The winner takes home bragging rights and a cash prize.

    “Right now the music industry has become more focused on gimmicks,” Garner said. “This is a show that is bringing vocal ability back to the forefront of the industry.”

    Copycat will begin airing in June.

    “I’ve been working very hard this year on my music and it is rewarding that so many are taking notice,” he said.

    He is planning a summer tour in the United States and Japan to promote his newest EP 7 and to celebrate the success of his album I Am.

    In the future, Garner said he would like to be signed to major record label and believes that dream will become a reality very soon. His ideal music contract would be with a label supportive enough to invest in a singer who writes, co-produces and has independently released material. So far he has yet to be offered that non-controlling type of contract, but he has been meeting with several interested labels. Until then, he plans to continue pursuing his independent career and making himself undeniable.

    Copycat will air on MTV June 2 at 6:30/5:30c. Watch the trailer here 

    by Cameron James

    City News Manager

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  • ‘Step Off’ Comes to Manship

    You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your sorority sisters! This May, New Venture Theatre (NVT) will present a comedic glimpse at sorority life with “Step Off”, a story of the rivalry between two fictional sororities.

    “The whole idea of these women in this group coming together to create a production is almost a production in itself, so I wanted to showcase it in a way that celebrated femininity and the fierceness that women possess,” said Greg Williams, Jr., NVT founding artistic director and “Step Off” playwright.

    Dreama, the captain of Alpha Mu and her sorority sisters, have been challenged to bring it by rival sorority Kappa Theta in the annual Pearl Step Competition, to prove which sorority is the best on the campus of fictional Bailey University.

    But when the group learns that Adorn, the world-renowned choreographer they emptied their savings account to hire, isn’t what they expected, they find more important lessons than just a choreography routine.

    “This is a play that will entertain and show that part of growing up is finding your voice – you can’t let relationships, organizations or anything else define you,” said Amber Smith who plays Dreama

    Williams said he wanted to write a play that had the feel of a musical. Songs by Beyoncé and Rihanna are used to illustrate the highs and lows for the sorority members. The play even resurrects Brooke Valentine’s “Girl Fight” for what is guaranteed to be one its most memorable scenes.

    “There are so many elements to being in a sorority, one is community service, but they also participate in huge grand events and I wanted to respect that and also showcase it in a theatrical [way],” Williams said.

    Instead of characters bursting into song, the production utilizes choreographer Dwight Bell for the dance scenes to tell the tale of the ongoing battle between the sororities.

    “The characters in the story are going through a lot emotionally and we are using music and dance to showcase those emotions to the stage in a unique way,” Bell said.

    Maxine played by Bianca Siplin, reacts to meeting Adorn played by Aron Ardoin, with Dreama played  by Amber Smith and Zaydra played by Denice King.

    Maxine played by Bianca Siplin, reacts to meeting Adorn played by Aron Ardoin, with Dreama played by Amber Smith and Zaydra played by Denice King.

    Who will take the win at the Pearl and have the title of the best sorority on campus? That is a question that will be answered. But what is sure to make the show entertaining is the journey that these women take to make the dream of victory a reality.

    “Step Off” opens May 15 and will run until May 18 at the Hartley/Vey Studio Theatre inside the Shaw Center for the Arts.

    By Cameron James

    City News Manager


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  • Maintain healthy excercise routine during pregnancy

    LEARNING THAT YOU ARE PREGnant may change your view of your body. After all, you now have a developing baby within you to worry about. Add in some side effects of pregnancy, like feeling tired and sick to your stom- ach, and it can be tempting to avoid physical activity. In fact, you can, and should, remain active during pregnancy. Regular exercise helps you stay healthy. It also helps your developing baby.

    Exercise before, during and after birth 

    As you advance through pregnancy, your body will begin to look and feel different. Exercise can make you feel more energetic. It can also reduce the aches and pains that often come with pregnancy and can even make you look better.

    In addition, exercise can help you during delivery. Childbirth requires a lot of physical effort. Be- ing fit prepares your body for the hard work of labor. Even small improvements in fitness will benefit you.

    Once you deliver your baby, you’ll want to return your body to its previous shape. If you exercised regularly before and during pregnancy, you’ll gain less weight from fat. That will make it easier to get back in shape.

    Exercise does not cause miscarriage. According to the American Pregnancy

    Association, the most com- mon cause of miscarriage in the first trimester (three months) is problems with the fetus’ DNA. Other things that can cause a mis- carriage are:

    • Drug use.
    • Smoking.
    • Poor eating habits.
    • Excessive amounts

      of caffeine (such as


    • Radiation (for example, X-rays). Sensible exercise is not proven to cause miscarriage.

      How can you exercise safely during pregnancy?

      You should speak with your doctor before starting any type of exercise pro- gram. Depending on what your doctor recommends, you can do many different things. Swimming can take pressure off your joints. Many experts suggest walk- ing for exercise. Strength training, at least with the arms, should also be fine. You may even be able to run short distances if you were already running before your pregnancy. If not, however, you should hold off until after delivery to begin doing so.

      Exercises to avoid

      While exercise during pregnancy has many great benefits, there are some activities that you should definitely avoid.

      Once you think you are pregnant, you should not do any activity that involves bouncing, leaping or sudden changes in direction. In addition, you should stop doing sit-ups, double- leg raises and straight-leg toe touches during your pregnancy. You should also avoid sharp twisting of your body or holding your breath. And avoiding contact sports, such as basketball, or other activities where you are likely to fall down can help you protect your growing baby.

    Also, take particular care during Louisiana’s hot and humid summers. If you become overheated, it can harm your developing baby.

    If in doubt, ask your doctor

    No two people are exactly alike, and no two pregnancies are exactly alike. Some people are able to remain very active well into their pregnancy. Others have to cut back on their physical activity earlier. That’s why it is important to talk with your doctor about how you’re feeling. Make sure you see your doctor regularly from the very beginning of your pregnancy and follow his or her advice.

    Yolonda Spooner, M.D., is the medical director of AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana (formerly known as LaCare), a Medicaid managed care plan serving nearly 145,000 Louisianans.

    ONLINE: amerihealthcaritasla.com

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  • Walking with Faith

    WALKING BY FAITH IS A METAPHOR COMMONLY USED BY CHRISTIANS, but Pew 2 Pavement is putting that metaphor into action while helping Christians lead a more active lifestyle.

    “If you look back at our history any big change that comes to from our community starts in the black church, our faith is strong but sometimes our health gets put on the back burner” said Nettye Johnson, founder of Pew 2 Pavement.

    When Nettye Johnson wanted to make a change to her health for the better, she joined the popular weight loss program Weight Watchers and began working for the company.

    “While there, I noticed not many African Americans were taking the steps towards as healthier lifestyle, and I felt the motivation had to come from a deeper place,” she said.

    In January of 2013, Johnson launched Pew 2 Pavement a running club that merges faith and fitness.

    Pew 2 Pavement is an eight-week program is designed to support, encourage and equip members of the body of Christ to embrace the discipline of walking and running as an act of worship and stewardship.

    “Our faith tells Christians that our body is our temple, yet many of us are not taking the stewardship to treat it as such,” she said.

    Johnson incorporates faith into the program by hosting daily devotionals with the group before they begin their weekend runs and encourages them throughout the week in various ways.

    “I send out inspirational messages, scriptures, and sometimes YouTube videos to keep everyone in the group motivated throughout the week,”she said.

    The group meets Saturday mornings to pray, talk about their progress, and walk and run together.

    “Until I made being active a God thing and something bigger than just wanting to look a certain way or be a certain size, I was able to overcome a lot obstacles. This unites (Pew 2 Pavement participants) in a bigger way than a group who comes together to just workout,” she said.

    The eight-week program is open to people of all fitness levels and is focused on helping participants develop habits that will lead to an active lifestyle and not just a slimmer waist.

    “The focus of the program is to help (participants) create a healthy lifestyle they’ll continue to live once the program is complete,” she said.

    As soon as participants begin the program, they work with Johnson to create a list of goals they want to accomplish during the program.

    “This is what makes the program unique. I don’t tell participants what to do or how they will look at the end. We sit down and create a list of attainable goals,” she said.

    Johnson said she has had a variety of participants who want set goals ranging from weight loss

    to just wanting to lay to foundation to a more active lifestyle.

    For example, when participant say they can only commit to working out as little as two times a week, she says it is a great first step toward living a healthier life.

    “I am trying to help them set up a lifestyle. We would never go a day without brushing our teeth or praying. Why don’t we have the same approach to being active?” she said.

    Johnson helps the participants create their own goals that center around their different motivators, body types, and health histories. Giving the participants the ability to create their own program based their on schedule and personal goals shows them that living an active lifestyle is easily sustainable.

    As a fitness coach, Johnson said she only makes suggestions on what types of food Pew 2 Pavement participants should eat to reach their fitness goals.

    “I help participants set up guidelines for their diets, but only a registered dietitian in Louisiana can create an actual diet for someone,” she said

    Johnson also uses the program to introduce the various parks to the participants and the group uses courses at parks throughout Baton Rouge.

    “We run in a variety of areas so that participants can learn how to create their own trails and can see there a variety of safe places to run in Baton Rouge,” said Johnson

    The next session of Pew 2 Pavement will start in May and registration is now open for those who are interested at pew2pavement.com

    “Our health is very important we can pray for good health, but we also have to make sure we’re doing our part” she said.

    By Cameron James

    City News Manager

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  • What to keep in the closet for spring


    SPRING IN THE SOUTH IS THE season for festivals and all things outdoors. The weather down here can be a little temperamental, but there are two things we can always count on: humidity and heat. Spring is also the season for change.
    There’s no more room for those coats and sweaters, so the closet is in desperate need of a seasonal makeover. Throw out the heavy knits and bring out the linens. There are, however, a few staple pieces that could easily transition from fall to spring.
    Bold Colors
    This trend was quite popular this past fall. Red, blue  and green have become universally acceptable throughout the year. Whether you choose to go monochromatic (same color, different shades) or color block (one solid color paired with another) colors are always fun to explore . Any shade of any of these colors can stay in your closet this season as long as they are lightweight materials (i.e, cotton)

    This trend is my personal favorite. Denim can be worn all year long and can be either dressy or casual. Denim on denim is a great style to try: Pair a denim or chambray shirt with a pair of jeans. Light colored jeans are typically a summer and spring trend,but dark can be suitable as well. For both men and women, slim, skinny, straight leg, bootcut or relaxed can be kept your closet. For ladies I see flares making a comeback, so those can stay too.
    Winter white has been an evolving trend over the past few years. No white after Labor Day has basically gone out of the window these days. The faux pas derived mainly from the idea that white is lighter and breathable for warmer climates (i.e, spring and summer). This fact still remains, but instead of heavy knitted or fleece white items, I will say keep the cotton pieces and maybe add some linen to your wardrobe. White jeans and pants are suitable as well.

    We Southerners love our boots. Snakeskin, leather, or suede, we rock them all yearlong. Yes, they are generally meant to keep your feet warm (which in fact that do), but in the summer, a pair of boots can compliment a pair of shorts [Women] or some comfortable bootcut jeans [men and women]. I would say pack up the tall, knee length ones and keep the short, ankle ones in the closet.

    Leather & Suede
    Leather and suede? In the spring? Indeed yes, this has become a popular trend. Some shoes (ankle boots, moccasins, or pumps) and bottoms (skirts or shorts for ladies) work for the spring. I would, however, pack up any suede or leather pants or jackets; Spring cleaning bootsThere’s no need with all of this heat.It’s wise to keep staple pieces like these in your closet at all times. Each of these trends are interchangeable and are great styles to transition from winter to spring. At the end of the day, style is whatever you make of it. Some dress for comfort, others to make a fashion statement. Trends come, go and come back again. One thing that is constant is the individual. So remember to just be yourself, be confident, and always live in style!


    Contributing Writer

    Christine M. Hamilton is a New Orleans- based style blogger. She studied fashion merchandising at Louisiana State University. Follow her at CMHstyle.com

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  • Future of children’s insurance questioned


    THE 2015 EXPIRATION OF THe Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has advocates asking Congres- sional leaders to commit to funding the program be- yond the expiration date.

    CHIP, which provides coverage to about eight million U.S. children, is a federal state program that provides coverage for chil- dren who don’t qualify for Medicaid, but whose par- ents cannot afford private coverage.

    The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 retains CHIP’s eligibility stan- dards through 2019 and funds the program through October 2015. ACA also provides $40 million in federal funds to promote Medicaid and CHIP enrollment.

    More than 400 advocacy groups in support of the program sent a letter to President Barack Obama as well as minority and majority leaders in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives asking them to secure CHIP’s future this year so that states can operate their programs without interruption.

    The challenge, accord- ing to Bruce Lesley, presi- dent of First Focus, a bipartisan advocacy group on federal policy and budget issues relating to issues af- fecting children which co- ordinated the letter, is that children currently enrolled in CHIP may find them- selves uninsured if the pro- gram expires and parents can’t afford to go into the private markets.

    Additionally, children who are forced to go into the exchange market brought about by ACA may find themselves in receipt of inferior benefits, he said.

    Here, the Louisiana Children’s Health Insur- ance Program (LaCHIP) provides coverage to children up to the age of 19 who meet citizenship and income criteria that deem them eligible to receive health care, mental health, immunizations and other 5 medical services. Approximately 121,095 children were enrolled in LaCHIP in June of last year according to its 2013 an- nual report.

    One Louisiana orga- nization, Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation, Inc. (Mary Queen), signed the letter in support of seeing CHIP remain in place.

    Tap Bui, deputy direc- tor for Mary Queen, said, “As a nonprofit organiza- tion providing services to the underserved communi- ties of New Orleans East, we hope that our represen- tatives take into consider- ation the needs of the com- munity and support the CHIP program.”

    The Louisiana Weekly reached out to the entire Louisiana Congressional delegation for comments and their stances on the CHIP reauthorization.

    Congressman Cedric Richmond shared the fol- lowing statement: “The Children’s Health Insur- ance Program is crucial to

    so many low-income fami- lies who may be just above the Medicaid threshold, but cannot afford private insurance. I believe that it is important to continue to invest in our youth whether it is health care, food assis- tance, education, and so many more valuable pro- grams that if not properly funded would not only be morally reprehensible, but end up costing even more money in the future. I will continue to fight for criti- cal programs such as CHIP and many others that in- vest in our youth.”

    U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter as well as U.S. Representa- tives Steve Scalise, Charles Boustany, John Fleming, Vance McAllister and Bill Cassidy had not responded by print deadline.

    A representative from within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s press office con- firmed that CHIP is set to expire in October 2015, but could not yet provide an answer with regard to what would become of the chil-dren enrolled in the program should CHIP expire in 2015.

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  • A journey into world of Asperger’s and Autism

    by Carissa Cropper

    WE BEGAN OUR JOURNEY INTO my son’s fascinating world on October 16, 2010, after having a conference with his teacher. Sh described Tyler as being a great student, smart, and intelligent. She said that he would use his vocabulary words constantly throughout the day in an effort to master them and the way his mind worked out a math problem was truly unconventional.

    All the things that a mother and father want to hear about their child. However, she had several concerns with his social interactions with the other students. She noticed that he found it difficult to make connections with other children in his class.

    Oftentimes he would become overwhelmed with emotion over the smallest of mistakes and he would exhibit little quirks and facial expressions when he was placed in an uncomfortable situation. I agreed that I had noticed some of the same things, along with other behaviors, at home.

    His teacher suggested that we go and talk to his doctor about our concerns to see if Tyler was just a “shy” child or was it some- thing else going on. After seeing his doctor it was confirmed that my son had Asperger’s Syndrome.

    This form of Autism is a high functioning form that focuses on more social behavior than anything else. We had to begin teaching our child how to cope with “scary” situations that he was faced with in a daily basis. We had to begin to grasp that when a child with Asperger’s Syndrome tells you that he’s afraid – it means that their mind has imagined the worst thing in the world happening in that situation – so much so that they would rather not even attempt it then face their fear. I learned then that if I did not educate myself on the way to help him better cope in everyday life that this could cripple him, and that was just not an option.

    The first thing we taught Tyler was to embrace his fears. My mother taught him to ask himself this question, “What’s the worst thing that can happen and can you deal with that?” If the answer was “yes” then that’s something you can do. If not, then lets go back to the drawing board. We also taught him to “talk” – don’t just agree. You have feelings about things and they are important. He learned that he has a right to feel anyway he feels, even if it is afraid. The last thing that we worked on is accepting your “quirks”. Sometimes when Tyler is uncomfortable he will hold his hands straight out to the side, he also makes awkward noises at the ends of his sentences and his sporadic tongue thrust that often come out when someone is really crowding his space are what make him Tyler.

    My daughter often tells him that he’s awesome because he always thinks for himself. He never allows anyone to tell him how to feel about something, and she believes that makes him strong.

    I believe that I have been blessed with a very unique gift. My son challenges how I think and how I view things and people everyday. He is my reason for educating others on the importance of acknowledging differences and the acceptance of those differences. This journey is exciting and we welcome the challenges that come with the territory, as Tyler says ” this ride that were on comes with twist and turns, but you just need to wear your seatbelt!”

    Carissa Cropper is a Baton Rouge Comedienne and starring in New Venture Theatre’s production of  “Step Off”

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  • North Baton Rouge soccer keeps kids active

    BAKER—PART OF LIVING HEALTHY LIFEstyle is staying is active and the North Baton Rouge Youth Soccer Association is helping young people do just that.

    Founded in 2008, the goal of the NBRYSA is stresses the fundamentals of soccer and concentrates on the players having fun playing soccer for 3-year-olds to 14-year-olds with any athletic skill levels.

    The organization has a,

    Life-North Baton Rouge Youth Souccer Associationspring and fall season with weekly practices at the J.S. Clark Park. Games are held on Saturdays during the season.

    Every Wednesday, the NBRYSA hosts “bring a friend to practice” to engage potential players and keep kids active.


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  • Diagnosis motivates mom of 5 to run

    by Chequita Renee Hilliard

    AFTER GOING TO MY PRIMARY PHYSICIAN IN January 2014, I left in tears as I drove home with me was disturbing news, “You have high blood pressure and need to take this pill every morning.” As a registered nurse i knew he was right because I had taken and recorded my blood pressure for 3 months, but just hearing him say those words al- most killed me.

    At that moment I decided to do some- thing about it because I refused to pay for medication the rest of my life and I have my children who need and depend on me. This was a life sentence that I did not want.

    As I drove home in tears, I wanted to make change but, I didn’t want to go through all the fade diets that everyone was doing. I wanted to do the right thing the right way.

    I started working out on my own at home and eating a healthier diet. Later I joined Black Girls Run Baton Rouge and linked up with Varsity Sports. I had decid- ed to make a lifestyle change. I was going to run/walk to get this weight off.

    hilliard crossing finish line

    Since January, I have lost nearly 30lbs, lots of inches, my blood pressure is down and I participated in my first half Mara- thon, the annual Run Like a Diva Half Marathon in Galveston, Texas.page7image38800

    Although I didn’t place in the top amongst the 2800 runners, at the begin- ning of the race I asked God to do two things, let me finish and do not let me be last; he honored both my wishes. Because of that, I am a WINNER indeed. I’ve done what most in my town and age group have never done and I’m thankful.

    Chequita Renee Hilliard is a wife, mother of five, and grandmother to one. She is a reg- istered nurse, owner of Mountain High Photography and Videography Production and Mountain High Training Academy. 

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  • Churches to increase health awareness

    SHREVEPORT—The Nation- al Medical Association (NMA) is partnering with Enroll America and Black churches to increase of the awareness of health coverage opportunities and healthy Black people.

    NMA plans to use the partnership to provide physicians with the opportunity to help the uninsured under- stand the long-term effects of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

    Twenty-one percent, or one in five Blacks under the age of 65 don’t have health in surance coverage.

    Recent surveys by Enroll America showed that 68 per- cent of uninsured Black peo- ple are unaware that financial help is available to pay for health insurance options. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, six in 10 uninsured Blacks qualify for tax credits to pur- chase coverage.

    “The churches in the Af- rican American Community play a pivotal role in inform- ing people about the impor- tance of health coverage,” said Michael LeNoir, NMA president

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  • Mason sets open door meetings May, June

    The entire Southern University System including alumni are invited to one-on-one conversations with SU System President Ronald Mason Jr. He has reserved May 22 and June 26, 9am -noon, for individual meetings as part of his “President’s Open Door Day.” The meetings are by appointment only, on a first-come, first- served basis in the President’s Office, 4th Floor, J.S. Clark Administration Building. Sign up at the Office of the President or call 225.771.4680

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  • Best Kept Secret: Our Daily Bread

    OUR DAILY BREAD WHOLE Food Market and Bakery has been serving the Baton Rouge community with holistic medicines and healthy grocery options since 1989. Owners Alvin Himel and David Butt provide cus- tomers with health staples, vitamins, and organic pro- duce, while introducing shoppers to local products like Baton Rouge-made

    Sensation Salad Dressing. “Our most popular bread is our Farm House loaf, it is made of whole grain wheat and rye and the process to bake takes two days,” Himel said.

    The grocery doubles as a café offering daily spe- cials, and serving healthier versions of many Louisiana staples. “We serve gumbo and jambalaya. Except for our roux, we use fresh organic vegetables, and (meals include) brown rice instead of white,” Himel said.

    The café also serves fruit smoothies and juices from fresh fruits. “Many believe it costs more to eat healthier, but it could ac- tually cost less,” he said. A meal from Our Daily Bread that includes vegetarian lasagna, salad and a roll cost less than $8—a quick, healthy alternative to commercial fast food.

    Our Daily Bread is located at 9414 Florida Blvd in Baton Rouge. Above is a photo of organize produce sold by the local grocer.

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  • SU Ag institute grad recognized for healthy living

    NEW ORLEANS—JENGA Mwendo enrolled in the Small Farmer Leadership Institute Class III at the SU Ag Center in 2009, graduating in 2011.The same year  that she registered for the Leadership Institute, Mwendo founded Backyard Gardeners Network (BGN) in New Orleans.

    Earlier this year, Aetna Insurance selected to spotlight Mwendo for the March page of thee 2014 African- American History Calendar, “Community transformations: African Americans creating sustainable neighborhoods,” encourages healthy living. Aetna is an American managed health care company which takes healthy living seri- ously. Aetna is a member of the Fortune 100.

    The Lower Ninth Ward native returned to New Orleans in 2007 to help rebuild the community after the 2005 Katrina disaster. Mwendo is director of BGN and community organizer who focuses on strengthening the community through urban agriculture. The non-profit organization’s mission is community building, neighborhood revitalization and cultural preservation through urban gardening. They organize food demonstrations, educational workshops, potluck meals, and live musical entertainment. “We get to share home-cooked foods with each other,” she said, adding that her 9-year- old daughter has been a big part of her work. The kids in the neighborhood now appreciate what it takes to grow good food.”

    “If you have your own food source, you can bounce back a lot quicker after hurricanes,” Mwendo said. Jenga enjoys living in New Orleans “despite all the obstacles.”

    Following her gradu- ation from the Lead- ership Institute in 2011, Mwendo was among 14 fellows selected by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) Food and Community to receive an award. The 2011-2013 class of Fellows was a mix of grassroots ad- vocates, thought leaders, writers, and entrepreneurs.

    The award came with a two-year fellowship that provided an annual stipend of $35,000 in addition to communications support, trainings, and travel. The program supports leaders working to create a food system that strengthens the health of communities, particularly children.

    For this class of fellows, the selection committee focused on work that cre- ates a just, equitable and healthy food system from its roots up. More than 560 individuals applied for fellowships that year.

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  • A needed transformation: the weight loss journey of Jeffery Woods

    WHEN JEFFERY Woods’ wife gifted him an expensive t-shirt he said, “I put it on, it looked horrible and I felt so bad”. Instead
    of returning the shirt, he hung it in his closet as motivation to get back into shape.

    Over the course of one year, the 42-year- old father of two was able to transform from a flabby 245 pounds back to the lean 187-pound athletic build he had as a high school athlete.

    As a young boy in high school, Jef- fery Woods had a dream to make it to the 1992 Olympics. In pursuit of his dream, he earned a full scholarship to the University of Rhode Island (URI), where he earned All American Honors in the 400 Hurdles in 1991. While at URI, Woods held 16 school records in nine events and won 16 New England titles in eight events. Woods was also the 2x New England Track & Field Athlete of the Year and in 1992, he received URI’s highest athletic award.

    Although he did not make it to the 1992 Olympics, partly due to a foot injury, in 1995 he completed the Marine Corp Marathon, which was his first 26.2 miler. While training for his second marathon the following year, his life was changed physically, mentally and spiritually during a flag foot- ball championship game in Maryland. He collapsed on the field and spent a month in the hospital being probed and prodded in order to identify the cause. Woods was diagnosed with a cardiac arrhythmia and a Jeff Woods Before Piccardiac defibrillator was implanted.

    The diagnosis was odd considering Woods’ track and field background. After receiving multiple shocks while sleeping, Woods went to another hospital for a second opinion where he was diagnosed with cardiac sarcoidosis, a potentially life threatening illness. During that time 98% of the cases involved pulmonary organs. Unfortunately for some, 98% of the time, cardiac sarcoidosis was diagnosed post

    mortem. Ultimately doc- tors concurred, the only reason he survived was due to his level of fitness.

    However, as a result of medications, non-activity, poor diet and depression, Woods went from a lean 175 pounds to a whopping

    245 pounds with a 38-inch waist! The weight gain was a nemesis for years and proved to be a formida- ble one at that. For many years, he struggled with the weight, and because of his appearance, he refrained from visiting public pools.

    Finally in 2010, Woods decided he needed to get back in shape. He first

    started with his diet, elimi- nating all sugars, processed foods and all products containing enriched flour. This coupled with Insanity, an exercise program consist- ing of cardio and weight training he found the winning formula to transform his 42-year-old body back into competition shape.

    In 2011 he returned to URI to compete in the Alumni Track Meet, competing in three events. Woods is now lean at 195 lbs with his high school, 32-inch waist. He is also competing in his fourth Marine Corp Marathon this October.

    Jeffery Woods pictured with his family. Left to right: His daughter Laci, Woods, his wife Racquel and son Clayton.

    Jeffery Woods pictured with his family. Left to right: His daughter Laci, Woods, his wife Racquel and son Clayton.

    Illness, depression and poor self-image can be combated with good diet and consistent exercise reg- iment. Woods encourages others to create a plan, and “Live Life with Purpose.” He has energized his life through fitness to ensure he has every opportunity to enjoy his family and re- main healthy.

    Jeffery Woods, PhD, is the Indianapolis Regional Director for The Expecta- tion Project, an adjunct professor at Indiana Wes- leyan and the Founding Executive Director of Fathers 4 Futures.

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  • ,,

    EBR School Board seeks District 11 resident to replace Lamana

    The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board announces a vacancy on the school board due to the death of School Board Member Randy Lamana on April 16, 2014.  At a special meeting to be held on Thursday, May 1, 2014, the Board will appoint a qualified resident of School Board District 11, in the Parish of East Baton Rouge to serve until the duly elected member takes office January of 2015.   

    Qualified residents of District 11 interested in serving should submit a letter of intent along


    with a resume and/or short
    biographical sketch.  Each applicant must also submit a Certificate of Residency/Qualifications from the East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters.  The Certificates of Residency/Qualifications can be obtained free of charge.  Please submit the requested documentation to the attention of:

    Mr. David Tatman, President
    East Baton Rouge Parish School Board
    1050 South Foster Drive
    Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70806

    The deadline for submitting a letter of intent is Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 3:00 PM.   


    Persons eligible to serve as members of the School Board shall have the following minimum qualifications:

    1. A Board member shall have attained the age of eighteen (18).
    2. A Board member shall be domiciled in the election district for the preceding year, except after reapportionment.
    3. A Board Member shall have resided in the state for the preceding two (2) years.
    4. A Board Member shall be able to read and write.
    5. A Board Member shall not be serving on certain other boards specified in the Constitution of Louisiana.
    6. A Board Member shall have affirmed to the prescribed oath.

    All applicants must also disclose if a member of their immediate family is an employee of the school system.  “Immediate family” as the term relates to a public servant means his children, the spouses of his children, his brothers and their spouses, his sisters and their spouses, his parents, his spouse, and the parents of his spouse.

    For more information, please visit the school system’s web site at www.ebrpss.k12.la.us or contact us by phone at 225-922-5567. 

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  • Is conservatism working?

    WE LIVE IN A RED STATE. That’s no secret. So many Louisiana residents take pride in our state’s conservative values. Traditional notions of family, “small” government, emphasizing the importance of being business friendly,

    being tough on crime—violent and victimless alike— and the preservation of unborn pregnancies are all key tenets of this mindset. Does this mindset behoove us at all?

    Louisiana’s legislative session recently got under way and this is the time of year the ideologies of our state are most apparent. One of the most controver- sial bills thus far has been HB 388 also known as the safe abortion act. This bill requires doctors to have “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic and would force 3 of Louisiana’s five abortion clinics to close. One would think that such legislation would come from some old white male Republican, right? WRONG.

    This legislation was sponsored by Katrina Jackson, 16th district state representative who happens to be an African American Democrat. When asked—by several people—why this bill was necessary, Jackson failed to provide any statistics for the state of Louisiana and resorted to only posting links from anti-abortion websites like Lifenews. com that had nothing to do with this state whatsoever. Rep. Jackson is no stranger to such conservative ideals as she sponsored a bill that would allow students to voluntarily participate in the Lord’s Prayer—as if they were prohibited—at school? Wouldn’t you think someone who has the town with largest wealth gap in the nation in her district would have different priorities?

    Also this session, the House Commerce Commit- tee has killed a bill aimed at prohibiting housing dis- crimination against LGBT individuals? Maybe I am missing something but

    who exactly does allowing discrimination help? Also there is the ever present problematic way in which Louisiana handles its pe- nal system. House bill 227 makes it more of a crime to assault referees than to assault the general population.

    Another recent bill added a mandatory minimum for those who flee from law enforcement—regardless of reasoning—and would punish those who violate

    traffic laws in this process more harshly than those who violate them in under other circumstances?

    Given the amount that this state is already spending on incarceration, can we really afford any of this? Is conservatism working for Louisiana?

    Terry Young is a survey researcher for the LSU Public Policy Research Lab in Baton Rouge. 

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  • Wells named the Teacher of the Year

    Mrs. Paula Wells was named the Teacher of the Year for Hammond Westside Elementary Montessori School.  Mrs. Wells was selected by her colleagues for her professionalism, dedication to her students, and knowledge.

    Mrs. Wells exhibits a positive attitude, which is reflected in the way in which her students treat one another.  She inspires her students to work to their potential.  Mrs. Wells’ strong content knowledge and effective lesson delivery lead to her students’ success.

    Mrs. Wells serves as a mentor teacher and provides support to her grade level team. She also serves on the school’s leadership team

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  • Mobile Pantry to make stop in Scotlandville

    Together Baton Rouge and the Greater Baton Rouge Food bank will host  the Scotlandville Mobile Pantry Saturday, April 26 at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. The pantry will provide free produce to Scotlandville citizens starting at 9 a.m. until the produce runs out.  St. Michael’s Episcopal Church is located at 1620 77th Avenue. Patrons are asked to bring a chair and food carrier.

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  • Month with Mada

    The Southern Univer- sity Law School hosted Law Week March 17 -March 21, including solitary confinement exhibition dis-play. The celebration included a memorial program for Herman Wallace, a true vision- ary and member of the Angola 3. The keynote speaker was Robert King. As a member of the Black Panther Party while in prison, the system silenced is- sues and concerns and forced many prisoners into solitary confinement so problems that occurred did not seep out of the prison walls. King spent 29 years in solitary confinement, living in a 6’ x 9’ cell with very little or no contact with the prison general population and special privileges are very limited. “Solitary confinement is slavery,” said King. He was released from Angola Prison in 2001. Many plays, books and studies have been written, making the Angola 3 story known all over the world. King said, “Herman Wallace would be delighted by the support”.

    Malik Rahim was the special guest speaker and also was a member of the Black Panther Party. He shared many encounters with law enforcement and the penal institutions and urged the law students in attendance at this special program. “You can make a difference to change the justice system”.

    Rahim said 2 million individuals are on parole/ probation and omore than a million Black males are in prison.

    King and Rahim made it clear in their presenta- tions that many prisoners have been framed due to their political beliefs.

    In memory of Herman Wallace, who spent more than 30 years in solitary confinement was finally re- leased from prison in Octo- ber 2013. Herman died two days later after battling and suffering with a terminal illness. He never received the proper medical care while incarcerated.He died before justice was able to prevail on his behalf. Wal- lace is loved by many family members, friends and will be greatly missed.

    The other Angola 3 inmate is Albert Woodfox, remains in solitary confine- ment after more than 30 years.

    The Angola 3 Coalition and Amnesty International strongly continue to fight and are vocal and visible. The Angola 3 story is known locally, statewide, nationally and internationally. It has been a catalyst for discussions on the treatment prisoners in solitary confinement receives in the legislature and other judicial processes.

    King and Rahim gave soul-stirring messages and captivated the audience discussing the challenges they encountered while be- ing in prison.

    There is a bill in the Louisiana Legislature HR- 1, addressing solitary confinement restrictions and how long a prisoner should remain in solitary confine- ment.

    Proclamations have been declared regarding the Angola 3, stating that these three individuals are not guilty for crime that they served time in such deplor- able conditions. The fight is moving strong to free and release Woodfox.

    He is older, has health concerns, and needs to walk as a free man as soon as possible.

    This month’s program at Southern was very inspirational.Hats off to Professor Angela Bell, all of the Pre enters and the Students of the Southern University Law Center.

    This new column shares community events and activities compiled by Mada McDonald, a public relations professional and community activist 

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  • Southern University Ag Center pays tribute to ‘Heroes’

    The Louisiana Living Legend Banquet, highlighting three award recipients as “heroes with ties and connections to Southern University” for their years of selfless service. The 2014 Louisiana Living Legends were WESLEY CRAWFORD, retired agricultural extension agent and mentor who served in Monroe, Morehouse and Franklin parishes for 33 years; SOLON MARSHALL, retired vocational agriculture teacher who taught in Richland and Franklin Parishes for 37 years; and KIRKLAND E. MELLAD, PH.D., retired vice chancellor for research, with 39 years of service at Southern University

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  • ,

    Hill to host community meeting on House Bill 1177

    Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) District 8 Rep. Carolyn Hill will host a community meeting 6pm, Tues., April 22, at Capitol Middle School, 5100 Greenwell Springs Road, to discuss the impact of House Bill 1177, which would restructure the administration of the East Baton Rouge Parish School System.East Baton Rouge School System Supt. Bernard Taylor, Attorney Domoine Rutledge as well as State Representatives Pat Smith and Alfred Williams will speak. Refreshments and door prizes will be provided.

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  • Easter the season of renewness, restoration

    IT IS OFTEN SAID WE ARE “spiritual beings” having a natural experience.

    How many of you are “spiritual beings” having a “spiritual experience” in this season of restoration? How are you being restored? Are you searching your soul and making necessary changes to move forward? Will you do self-inventory to see how well you are doing as a Christian? Are looking back at days of yesterday and reliving bad and trying times?

    Having this season upon us, is giving us a time to truly be restored to wholeness in Christ, or whomever we serve, mat- ters not name by which they are called!

    Will you spend this sea- son forgiving others as you seek forgiveness as Christ did on the cross? Will you turn this season into one of commercialization by shopping for that special outfit, go- ing to church once a year, prepared the perfect dinner, painting eggs and have a family out- ing; or will you wrap your- self in a “spiritual experience” praying, rejoicing, living, loving, forgiving, giving, and lifting up your Savior?

    Will you be seeking daily to forgive and be for- given, to be a better you and carry a lighter load?

    In this season of renewness and restoration, are you a conformist or a transformer? How have you grown since last years’ “Easter Holiday of  restoration?” How many lives have you transformed or have you conformed to the ways of those that you are seek- ing to transform? In this season of holiness, let it not end with Easter Sunday, but continue to be a life-line to eternity. In this season of “re-newness and restoration” I will be prayerful, forgiving, and I pray to be forgiven?

    Joyce Turner Keller, Th.D., is founder of Travelers of Christ Evangelistic Ministry. She is a global advocate for HIV/AIDS. 

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  • Landrieu to address SU commencement

    U.S. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu will be the commence-ment speaker for the spring graduation ceremony in the F.G. Activity Center, May 9, at 10:30am. Landrieu, a New Orleans native, is the first woman from Louisiana ever elected to the United States Senate. Landrieu was Louisiana’s State Treasurer from 1988 to 1996. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996 and reelected in 2002 and 2008.

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  • Students remember integrating BR High School

    IT BEGAN ON SEPT. 3, 1963, the first day of school in Baton Rouge. The tem- perature was 75 degrees, but the social climate was much hotter. This was the day that 13 Black students desegregated Baton Rouge High School.

    Cabs provided by the American Friends Service Committee drove up Gov- ernment Street, with the Black students four to a car. Police officers, report- ers, spectators and heck- lers lined the breezeway of BRHS and stood either silent or snickering as the

    11 girls and two boys made their way to the entrance. None of the students nei- ther –white nor Black – knew what to expect on the other side.

    “I knew a lot of kids whose parents wanted them to just wait a few days to go back to school,” said Milou Barry, who attended BRHS when the 13 Black students arrived. “There was a plan being discussed that a group of Key Club members and cheerleaders should greet those taxis and escort those terrified Black students up the long walk to the front doors of that huge school. The rest

    of us were supposed to ap- plaud them.”

    But that didn’t hap- pen. The Black students entered the school quietly, seemingly invisible to the white students – until they were heckled or physically attacked.

    The Black students, who had been recom- mended by their teach- ers, came from McKinley High School and South- ern University Laboratory School. Once they passed an entrance exam, the stu- dents began regular meet- ings with the NAACP and church leaders for training in non-violence and survival strategies. The same measures were not taken on the other side.

    “As far as I know there were no workshops or instructions to the white students who were at the school about what we should expect or, more importantly, what was expected of us in order to fa- cilitate the integration of BRHS,” said Robb Forman Dew, one of the white students at BRHS in 1963. “Had the grownups in our lives wanted the experience to go well they could have done a great deal to make it happen. Many of our teachers were truly racist, and cer- tainly didn’t want the experience to go well, I imagine. Of course, some were wonderful people who were horrified by racism. But no one thought to put in place a code of conduct, or even to try to ame- liorate problems before they came up.”

    This was 10 years after the unanimous opinion of the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Educa- tion, declaring “separate but equal” schools unconstitutional. Before that, desegregation of schools had been happening across the nation since 1940 – in small instances, with the admission of one student here and there, mostly at colleges and universities. In 1960, deseg- regation began in Louisiana with New Orleans public schools. Three years later, in the heat of the Civil Rights movement, Baton Rouge began to integrate Lee High, Glen Oaks High, Istrouma High and Ba- ton Rouge High.

    One of the 13 Black students, who is now in her 60s and asked to remain anonymous, recalled a mo- ment when her frustrations over- came her preparation and training one afternoon at lunch. An incident involving her and a white student took a violent turn. After having a

    lunch plate of food dumped on top of her head by the white classmate, she sent multiple plates crashing atop of the tow-headed boy, leav- ing him red with blood.

    “It was senior day and the theme was cowboy day and none of the [Black] classmates wanted to dress up, but I dressed like a cow- girl,” she said. “That boy dumped his food all over my head; mashed potatoes and gravy and greens. That prompted me to find every plate I could find, breaking them over his head. It was something I wouldn’t normally do, because we were coached and very well trained on nonviolence. I don’t know why he did that, but I think that he was frustrated that his sister and I befriended one another in choir. They [BRHS] suspended me for one day, but it was worth it. That day I earned the name Cassius Clay; it’s what everyone wrote in my yearbook.” (Cassius Clay, who later changed his named to Mu- hammad Ali, won the 1960 Olym- pics gold medal for boxing.)

    And, while that incident may have been an extreme response, softer, quieter events agitated situations like that daily. Most white youths refused to partner with Blacks during class projects, leaving a few brave students and teachers to play those roles. And, then there were some students like Mimi Riche who said she regrets not befriending her Black class- mates.

    “Unfortunately for me, I was not classy enough to step across the line and engage with my new class- mates other than to quietly speak in passing,” Riche said. “Today, I would imagine we might be good friends. The past 50 years have brought us a long way, in many ways, not nearly far enough”

    The class of 1964’s story was all over the nation on television, on the radio and in various news- papers and magazines. The largest media response was in 1963 when NBC evening news aired a report by anchor David Brinkley about the desegregation of Baton Rouge high schools. He noted that the capital city had waited nearly 10 years after Brown vs. Board of Education to begin opening their high schools up to all races. And, the Black students who were described as brave, strong and determined were not getting the same positive messages from their classmates, school system administration, or the city at large.

    Here on the home front, the Black students were told daily that they would never graduate. Many of them said they believed it until May 1964, when they were lined up in an LSU auditorium for com- mencement – some graduating to no applause, but
    with scholarships and high honors. The daily nightmare was nearly over, but the memories remained deep wounds that are still healing.

    “That year at BRHS ran the gamut of human emotions: excitement, wonder, anxiety, fear and closeness to my fel- low [Black] travelers and many other feel- ings,” said Charles R. Burchel, one of the 13 Black students. “I’m glad I did it. For me and others not to have done it would have helped to solid- ify racist stereotypes that were so prevalent.”

    With the 50-year reunion ap- proaching in May, some of the white students have befriended Black students throughout the planning for the event that began in 2011. Several former students said the feeling of a two-year friendship versus what could have been a 50- year relationship weighs heavily on what were once the terrified hearts of teenagers.

    Former student Walter Eldredge and other white students said they now regret not forming relationships with the new stu- dents that year, blaming ignorance as the culprit.

    “My overwhelming memory of that year is that I knew the ostra- cism of those kids was wrong, yet I allowed myself to be diverted into my own little teen-world events and I let others establish the status quo, rather than make myself a target by reaching out,” he said.

    BY Leslie Rose

    Assistant Managing Editor 

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  • With justice and discrimination for all

    by Alvin A. Temple

    A VOTE THAT HAPPENED IN Louisiana on March 31 may seem slightly hard to believe in this day and age.

    At a time when we elected a president who campaigned about mov- ing forward, our House of Commerce took a colos- sal step backwards as they voted 13-5 against a bill that would prevent hous- ing discrimination against citizens regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

    I understand that everyone has different stances when it comes to marriage equality because of religious beliefs (and that still doesn’t make it right in a civil case), but this? This is about Civil Rights. This is about discrimination and the right one has to be protected from such. As a gay man, I wake up, go to work, vote and pay my taxes just like everyone else in this country.

    So I truly believe I deserve the same rights as everyone else. I deserve the same protection as every free citizen in the state of Louisiana and in the United States of America.I am outraged that this bill was denied, and even more so that it was denied 13-5. Thirteen votes against it and only five votes for it seems utterly absurd to me. What’s next – separate drinking fountains; will we have to enter buildings from another door; will we have to sit on the back of the bus while all the heterosexuals sit up front? We’ve seen this political machine work in the past – it begins with something as minute as this and escalates into the state passing a law that states businesses have the right to refuse service to the LGBT community.

    Oh, wait. That just happened in Mississippi on April 4. That’s right, the Friday of the very same week that Louisiana denied HB 804.

    This is the slow deterioration of what so many people fought and even died for. This is where we start rolling back the clock and using religion as a tool to repress free citizens in our nation. It’s a slow poisoning that turns into a sickness and develops into a plague of hate wrapped up in a pretty package disguised as religious freedom. You may very well believe that it is religious freedom, but you should also understand that is a complete violation of civil freedom. Do we honor the legends of the fight for civil rights by allowing such political atrocities to go without standing up and making a powerful noise against it? There was a time when great advocacies of civil rights would have leapt up and cried in outrage, and made such a noise that the world as a whole would stand up and take notice then join the fight. Now, however, we just sit silently and say, “Well, what did you expect?”

    I expect my rights to be protected by the governing body and elected officials of this state and country – THAT IS what I expect! That is what the citizens of this state and country deserve. This is what they are entitled to. We have

    taken our advocacies of civil rights and made them feel embarrassed to stand up because if they do, if they dare open their mouths against these acts of hatred and discrimination, they are called out by church heads and officials for supporting a gay agenda.

    A gay agenda? The only agenda I see our LGBT community fighting for is that of equality, a fight for the pursuit of happiness in a country that prides itself on its liberty and justice for all. Maybe you are familiar with such a movement.

    Just know that as a gay man in the state of Louisiana, I too have the right to deny you this sale or rental. See, that’s the interesting part of this law, or as the case may be, the lack of this law. If there are no existing laws that protect a person from discrimination regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, then understand that this gives me and any other member and supporter of the LGBT community the right to deny housing to those who identify as heterosexual.

    We could start our own gay community – and we’re good with catchy little phrases so maybe we’ll call it a Gaymunity! It would have the most fabulous houses, the finest lawns and would be the envy of all the strictly straight neighborhoods. You know what, maybe we should embrace this law because most of us know how it feels to be discriminated against, to have someone look at you in disgust and hate. To have churches say cruel and heartless things, to be made to feel unwelcomed in places that preach of love and healing and then to just watch our House of Commerce teach us the harsh reality of the hateful act of legal discrimination. Yes, we to know what discrimination feels like, and our House of Commerce just made it legal. So maybe, we should embrace this law and act accordingly.

    But we won’t. I strongly encourage our community and supporters not to do this. When we win this fight, and we will win this fight, we will do it by becoming better than the injustice shown to us. We win with compassion.

    Alvin A. Temple is native and proud resident of Baton Rouge. He is a wellness coach, owner and instructor of Pure Yoga, and an avid Egalitarian. 

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  • Erotic author, Zane, talks entrepreneurship

    INSTEAD OF TELLING EROTIC tales Author Zane discussed how to become a successful entrepreneur at Southern University, April 1.

    “To me the erotic ele- ments of my books are re- ally minor compared to the underlying issues I’m try- ing to deal with in the book, I do think everything is an element in life and sexual- ity is part of it,” Zane said.

    She said that her much deeper purpose to help peo- ple navigate through toxic relationships, because no matter what their goals are the relationships they have will affect them.

    The author of more than 30 romance novels shared with fans some how she was able to transform herself from woman who wrote just to pass the time into a New York Times best seller.

    To be successful some- one must be focused, compassionate, and passionate, she said.

    “The way you can tell someone is really passionate about what they are doing is because it never looks like they are work- ing,” she said.

    Zane has executive produced and written the scripts for the movies to her books, but her passion is what get keeps her going. In history, some of the most successful people “failed” before they found their success.

    “It shouldn’t be about failing or succeeding, you shouldn’t be afraid to do either one and you can’t spend time worrying about either,” she said.

    The author said she no- ticed that most successful people have what she refers to as “I.E.” personality.

    “These people are in- ternally motivated, but ex- ternally focused. They see world as a big picture and bigger than themselves,” she said.

    One of the biggest reason people don’t achieve their goals is because they spend too much time worried about other people. Zane said she believes that judging other people is based on our own insecurities and that it is the only reason for someone to ex- cited or happy when some- one is seemingly failing at something.

    “If you’re compassionate and care about what happens to other people and care about leaving the world a better place than how you found it. It will al- ways be a constant motivation bigger than anything else,” she said.

    Read more »
  • Spike Lee speaks to youth

    NATCHITOCHES- When Barry LaCaze bid a whopping $1,000 for a Spike Lee book at the Boys & Girls Clubs of El Camino Reál’s 16th Annual Steak & Burger Dinner, he didn’t flinch or show hesitation.

    “I just really wanted the book and knew it was for a good cause,” said LaCaze, 28, a sound technician at a local church. “It’s worth it.”

    More than 900 people gathered at the Natchi- toches Event Center for the local club’s fundraiser. In a pleasant twist, club members were served steak and baked potatoes while adult supporters ate hamburgers and potato chips. Natchitoches singer DeShawn Washington, who also competed on the hit television show “The Voice,” provided entertainment.

    Spike Lee addressed the crowd after hearing sta- tistics such about how most of this club’s members read below grade level and qualify for free or reduced lunch. He called the statis- tics “very sobering.”

    “The gap between the haves and the have nots is wider than it’s ever been, and unfortunately Louisiana is at the top of that,” he said.

    He urged parents to step up to the plate and be more active in their children’s lives.

    “We have to go over their homework,” Lee said. “We have to take the time to be grown ups. Children are children. They don’t know what to do.”

    He also told parents to be more supportive of their children’s dreams, some- thing he said was a struggle for some.

    “Parents kill more dreams than anybody,” said Lee, who added that many young adults suc- cumb to vicious parental pressure and choose safe majors in school and ultimately careers instead of their dream ones.

    “I say my prayers  night because I’m blessed and love what I do,” he said.

    He talked about how he’s able to get up every morning without an alarm clock because he’s going to do work that he loves. Lee said that too many young black men want to be rappers or play sports.

    Lee Barry LaCaze, 28, of Natchitoches bid one-thousand dollars for this Spike Lee book

    Lee Barry LaCaze, 28, of Natchitoches bid one-thousand dollars for this Spike Lee book

    “We have enough of that. We need more scien- tists,” he added.

    Lee stressed the importance of education. A professor at NYU, his mother and grandmother were also college-educated teachers.  Lee attend Morehouse College and NYU.

    “Our ancestors knew that education would lead us out of bondage,” he said.

    Nationally the BCBA serve almost four million youth annually in almost 4,000 club facilities, ac- cording to their website. Their mission is “to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, respon- sible citizens.”

    All of the proceeds raised from the dinner go back into the local club.


    By Anastasia Semien

    Contributing Reporter

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  • City unites to cope with violence

    BAKER—IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS, CITIZENS OF BAKER HAVE BEEN coming together to keep their young people from falling victim to tragic statistics.

    According to a study conducted by The Center for American Progress, Louisiana has the highest gun-homicide rate among young people age 19 and younger.

    The severity of that study’s results became a harsh reality on March 28, when teenagers gathered for a birthday party and music video shoot at the Baker Civic Club, that would leave three of their peers dead and one hospitalized.

    Marcell Franklin, 15, Kendal Dorsey, 15, and Diontrey Claiborne, 18, were killed when shots were fired at the party. Javaughn Simmons, 19, was hospitalized and is expected to live.

    Tresa Jones, who is a Baker resident and founding member of Parents Against Violent Exposure (PAVE), said her teenage daughter asked her to take her and friends to what she said was a birthday party at the Civic Club.

    “I trust my daughter and I couldn’t tell what it was, but something just didn’t sit well with me and I almost didn’t let her go,” Jones said.

    Jones continued by saying that she felt more at ease once at the Civic Club, seeing other parents dropping their children off, although that assuredness went along with her assumption that the party would have security provided by law-enforcement. A few hours later, she got call from her daughter that proved her feeling of intuition wasn’t one she should’ve ignored.

    kid holding shirt She arrived back at the Civic Club to a scene of crying teenagers, flashing lights and parents searching for their children.

    said that even though he had his own bad intuition about the now-deadly event, intuition is legally not enough to shut down a party.

    “I saw the flyer for the party just by looking at it I had feeling it was a recipe for a not-so-good situation,” Knaps said.page1image25736

    The event was posted on the popular social media website, Facebook. Knaps said this was one of the things that made him feel uncomfortable about the party.

    “When you put an event up on social media about a social gathering, it is hard to control the type of people that come to the event,” Knaps said.

    Based on those concerns, he said chief investigator Darryl Rainwater told former Baker Civic Club board member Janet Mosley that the chief was worried about the party. Mosely brought the concern to Civic Club President Hazel Mitchell, who responded she was legally bound to the contract signed with the people holding the party.

    Baker police have arrested a 16-year-old boy accused of three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, and one count of illegal use of a weapon.

    Starlett Speed, a teacher at Glasgow Middle Schoolsaid that this generation of studentsis so connected to social media, that they are more concerned with updating their Facebook status than their interpersonal skills.

    Unfortunately for Speed, seeing the harsh effects of gun violence on her students is nothing new.

    “I lost one student who was murdered and I also taught the student who was accused of murdering him, that was really hard to take,” Speed said. “We live in such a microwave society where everything is so quick now, sometimes young people don’t take time think about the consequences of their actions.”

    Speed said she always wanted a career that was more rewarding, thatwould allow her to give back and impact young people. So she left her job in banking for a career in education because she knew that career path would allow her to make a difference.

    As a teacher, she has come across a variety of students, some who showed signs of strong academic promise and those who didn’t see a value in education.

    Baker City Councilwoman Joyce Burges particpates in discussion with teenagers about ways to prevent violence in Baker.

    Baker City Councilwoman Joyce Burges particpates in discussion with teenagers about ways to prevent violence in Baker.

    “Students need to see someone they can relate to, you have to reach to teach,” she said. “If you do it the other way around you’ll never reach your students. I tried that way when I began teaching, it was one of the worst mistakes I made.”

    Since she began her career six years ago she has lost a total of three students to gun violence.

    “Students needs some someone they can talk to, I try to be there for my students and told them if they have information and are scared to tell, tell me and I will tell [the police] for them.”

    Speed said she believes in implementing more school-sponsored social activities as a means to alleviate the need for students attend functions at venues that do not provide accurate safety.

    And now, in Baker that trying to have fun has lead to tragedy after tragedy, the city is looking for answers.

    “We want to know why everything happened and not that it just happened and who did it-we want to heal the community,” Knaps said. “We are still interviewing witnesses. Anytime two set eyes of look at something, they each see it differently, we want to know what every eye saw.”

    As police continue to put together the puzzle, citizens continue to come together to find ways to prevent tragedies like this from happening again. One organization that is trying to keep teens safe and prevent gun violence among them is Jones’ group, PAVE.

    “Children have forgotten about love. There is a lot of hate causing this violence, so we want to bring back love,” said Beverly Turner a founding member of PAVE. “We want to create unity is this community through activities that unite parents, children, and community leaders.”

    On April 11, PAVE paid tribute the shooting victims with a peace march that started at the Baker Civic Club. According to Jones, this is only one of the activities the group will host to help the community to heal.

    “We started Parents Against Violent Exposure to get parents to teach their children to think about their decisions,” Jones said. “If parents begin planting the seed in the home, when children are away from their parents, they will be more likely to stop and think about the consequences of their actions.”

    To be involved, email blvyhlms@cox.net

    Read more »
  • ‘Women of Brewster Place’ lands at Manship, April 24 – 28

    WHEN A NEIGHBORHOOD IS a melting pot of strong willed Black women, it serves as the recipe for an exciting emotional roller coaster.

    New Venture Theater’s (NVT) seventh season is rolling full steam ahead with its second production, “The Women of Brewster Place” the musical, April 24-28 at the Manship Theatre in downtown Baton Rouge.

    The musical tells the story of several strong-willed women who live in a rundown housing project on Brewster Place. NVT founding artistic director Greg Williams Jr. said he hopes the play does more than entertain.

    “We read about a 100 plays when trying to put together the season, and part of our selection process is asking ourselves is this work relevant? Is this work speaking to the times?” Williams said.

    Williams said he decided on Tim Acito’s musical version, which is closer to the novel than the TV mini-series made popular by Oprah Winfrey.

    “I think this version tells more of a story of the women and the music adds shows more heart and closer to the novel than the TV series,” Williams said.

    New Venture Theatre cast rehearses “The Women of Brewster Place” the musical with director Greg Williams Jr.

    wood has held privacy as the feature that makes it the man’s “grown-up fort” as the only way to gain access is by renting the facility for private events. Gollywood is located at 6224 Plank Road, Suite F, Baton Rouge.

    Acito’s stage version relies on a cast of just eight women, between 20 and 60 years old, to tell the story of the trials and tribulations faced by the women who inhabit Brewster Place.

    “There are no men, no children; a lot of the people we talk to are invisible I think it challenges us as actors to bring more emo- tion to our characters,” said Telisha Diaz who plays the lead role of Mattie.

    This performance could not have come at a better time, with all of the changes that Baton Rouge is going through, Williams said.

    “There are so many changes and divides in the city even between, north and south Baton Rouge, but this play gives a sense of community,” he said. “It reminds us no matter how different we all are at the end of the day all we have is each other.”

    Although NVT will not be producing the popular mini-series version, Williams said his show would bring some of iconic scenes from the TV to the stage by using artistic tactics that will appeal to the emotions such as the tearing down of the wall.

    “The only scene I remember from the movie growing up is the wall scene, but Greg told us not watch the movie so we could develop our characters naturally on our own” said Kai Lewis who plays Cora Lee in her first NVT production.

    “This play will give everyone as sense of what community is and what it can be,” Williams said. “What I love about this play is it shows that people with different beliefs, from different backgrounds can put aside their differences to come together.”

    For times and tickets click here

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  • Obama’s “My Brothers Keeper Initiative” has promise

    Earlier this month White House and President Obama formally launched his promising new initiative to effectuate meaningful change in the Black community. This has been something I had hoped for since that first euphoric moment when I learned that a Black man had been elected President of the United States.

    The initiative will build on policy changes Attorney General Holder has made in theDepartment of Justice to address one of the greatest threats to the Black community – their overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. It also will give practical form to the commitment the President made recently in his State of the Union speech to directly address the disparate negative outcomes young men of color face in America.

    Reminding us of the deeply moral framework that underpins this cause, the President has named this initiative – very appropriately — “My Brother’s Keeper.”

    Young men of color, especially Black and Latino males, suffer from a host of injustices, including disproportionate poverty rates, school suspension and expulsion rates, poor health outcomes, and particularly incarceration rates.

    For instance, a recent study published by Public Counsel and the Black Organizing Project revealed that in Oakland, CA, although only 29 percent of the city’s youth are Black, they comprise 73 percent of all juvenile arrests. And the issue is not one of more Black crime. As the recent groundbreaking film, “The House I Live In,” revealed, Black people use cocaine at the same rate of their population in the country, about 13 percent, but Black people make up a shocking 90 percent of all those serving federal cocaine sentences.

    When I worked in New York City as the Deputy Commissioner of Probation, Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a $120 million Young Men’s Initiative to improve the outcomes of young Black and Latino males in the city. One of the many programs funded by this initiative is Transformative Mentoring, where young people on probation go through a life skills and cognitive behavior therapy class and are then matched with a mentor from their community.

    The President’s team certainly can look to NYC’s initiative as well as to The California Endowment’s $50 million “Sons and Brothers” Campaign, which also seeks to improve the outcomes of young Black and Latino men as models for success. It also can learn from other local public-private partnerships, such as Oakland’s anti-violence program, Ceasefire, which exemplifies key tenets of the MBK goal: to build and strengthen positive bridges of understanding and communication between young men of color and law enforcement while reducing incarceration rates.

    This is the promise and potential of “My Brother’s Keeper.” It recognizes – as have these local programs – that while the amount of the investment is key, the effectiveness of the interventions are more important. In doing so, MBK should proceed with eyes wide open about the limits of government, the importance of partnership, and the cautionary track record of the numerous former government programs that have spent billions of tax payer dollars and have been proven ineffective.

    Indeed, to be most effective, “My Brother’s Keeper” should offer a different policy path: one that will lead to measurable outcomes, and evidence based results, and lead to real savings for our cities, our communities and our tax payers.

    One shining example of this new thinking – and new approach – is the President’s Pay for Success (PFS) initiative. Also known as Social Impact Bonds, this program will create an innovative financing structure through which private investment will pay the upfront costs for programs that the government pays back only if the intervention has proven to work. Such programs are currently underway in New York City and Boston, both of which seek to reduce prison recidivism which in turn will produce huge government savings.

    Innovative, data driven partnerships and programs such as these have the potential to achieve – and replicate across the nation – measurable outcomes that can save tax-payer money while reducing social inequity and building stronger, healthier communities.

    At its core, if implemented well, lawmakers can point to “My Brother’s Keeper” as a model for innovative, non-partisan public policy and the kind of practical problem-solving that all Americans want from our political leaders. Together we can create opportunity and much needed justice for boys and men of color in every corner of America. MBK is indeed a keeper, and potentially a transformative one.

    by David Muhammad, New American Media

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  • Chicken boxing and April Fools’ Day

    On April Fools’ Day, the Louisiana Legislature was in session. Perhaps the apex of legislative insanity ensued on April 1 when our elected officials debated the legality and ethics of “chicken boxing.” It was not a joke.

    Yes, chicken boxing became both a great occasion for humor and an embarrassment to the state. News outlets nationwide picked up the story. Sen. JP Morrell (D-New Orleans) proposed legislation to close the loopholes in the state cockfighting ban. Slick and enterprising fowl breeders bypassed the fighting cock prohibition by using sparring “gloves” during rooster bouts. In other words, they’ve turned the birds into boxers instead of fighters.

    This is the logic of Louisiana politics on public display.

    No doubt, when the legal authorities aren’t watching, the gaffs and knives come out and cockfighting is back to the bad old days.

    Undone by Morrell’s attempt to make cockfighting paraphernalia illegal, Sen. Elbert Guillory (R-Opelousas), a rising star in GOP politics, defended the practice of chicken boxing, which he understood to be well within in Morrell’s legislative sights. Guillory, a man with an unparalleled love for the photo-op, posed for pictures while holding little rubber boxing gloves fitted for roosters.

    Guillory, an African-American, was a Republican but then switched parties in order to win his seat in a heavily Democratic district. Last year he switched back to Republican with much fanfare. He is also a man who made headlines a year ago for his praise of witch doctors as a rationale to keep Louisiana’s embarrassing creationist K-12 “science” law on the books.

    Indeed, the debate over chicken boxing will continue, as will Louisiana being the laughingstock of America.

    However, we have another debate that is to me just as insane as boxing birds, perhaps worse.

    Rep. Chris Broadwater (R-Hammond) is on the defensive about HB 244, the “gun shows on college campuses bill.” The proposed law, according to Broadwater, is simply a gun safety bill.

    I have read HB 244 bill, gotten an email and a text message from Rep. Broadwater regarding the bill, and read articles written about the bill.

    Two facts come to mind. First, there is NOTHING in HB 244 to prevent gun shows on college campuses or even in the facilities of the elementary and secondary laboratory schools at SLU, Southern University, and LSU. If Rep. Broadwater had wanted to prevent “gun shows” from occurring, he could have written into the language allowing for no more than two or three guns to be auctioned or sold at events.

    Second, if Rep. Broadwater wanted to make a real statement promoting campus safety, he could have stopped any and all groups from selling or auction guns on campus under the Gun Free School Zones Act.

    This did not happen. We now have a bad bill that makes a bad statement. We can do better.

    I am proud of SLU professor Dr. James Kirylo and the SLU faculty senate for making a strong statement against gun sales on college campuses through a recent resolution. In a climate of fear created by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s assault on higher education, it is courageous when college employees take a stand on an important issue. LSU’s faculty senate is scheduled to take up a similar resolution soon.

    We don’t need to get stuck on the words “gun shows” or “gun auctions.” Likewise, let’s not get distracted by “chicken boxing” or “chicken fighting.” Who cares?
    At the end of the day, all of this is a bunch of foolishness as Louisiana continues to go to the birds. We have elected officials who make it April Fools’ Day all year long here in the Pelican State. Unfortunately, we allow them to bring embarrassment to the state when we create an atmosphere of disaster by voting them into office.

    Dayne Sherman resides in Ponchatoula. He covers the South like kudzu and promises that he never burned Atlanta. He is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website is daynesherman.com

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  • New main library at Goodwood to be dedicated Saturday

    The  East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library at Goodwood will host its formal opening and dedication on Saturday, April 12 .

    The celebration begins at 1 p.m.  with a ribbon cutting by city-parish Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden, members of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board of Control, State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton

    The flagship of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library System, the new Main Library at Goodwood enjoyed a soft opening in January.  The 126,000-square-foot library, which will be completed fully this summer, more than doubles the space offered patrons at the former site at Goodwood Boulevard (65,000 square feet).  The new location houses more than 500,000 items, ranging from books and movies to circulating artwork and electronic resources.

    The  new Main Library at Goodwood enjoyed a soft opening in January.  The 126,000-square-foot library,  will be completed fully this summer and more than doubles the space offered patrons at the former site at Goodwood Boulevard .  The new location houses more than 500,000 items, ranging from books and movies to circulating artwork, electronic resources.

    The new site is home to 140 personal computers, meeting room with a 300-person capacity , quiet reading room, rooms for meetings and Storytime, study rooms, free WiFi throughout the building, many electronic plug-ins and power outlets throughout the site, a Technology Lab, a Teen Room, and  a Children’s Room.

    When construction is complete it will also have a la Career Center, Baton Rouge Room/Archives and Genealogy Collection.

    The Main Library is open seven days a week (except for holidays) – 2-10 p.m. Sunday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

    The East Baton Rouge Parish Library celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.  It includes 13 branches, two Bookmobiles, more than 1.9 million items in the Library System’s Collection and more than 325,000 cardholders.  In 2013, there were 2.2 million visits to the library ,more than 2.4 million items checked out  and 1.85 million website hits.

    Following the ribbon cutting a variety of grand-opening events will take place throughout the day:

    10:30 a.m. — Mary Jo Kelly, the Book Doctor, who is a storyteller
    Noon – Silly Nilly the Clown, who makes fun with twisted balloons
    1 p.m. – Dedication and ribbon cutting, followed by tours and a reception
    1:30  p.m. – Daniel Collins, a Ton musician who uses bowls to make melodies
    2:30 p.m. — Harvey Rabbit & Friends
    2:30 p.m. – Minecraft Game Club for teens
    All Day – 3D Printer demonstrations, tours and a reception

    Read more »
  • DOTD highlights April as Highway Safety Awareness Month

    Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Sherri H. LeBas, P.E., announced April 2, at  the state’s month-long campaign to promote safe driving practices, especially emphasizing the need to use extreme caution while driving through work zones.

    “Safety while driving is the responsibility of all motorists,” said DOTD Secretary LeBas. “I urge everyone to practice safe driving and remain cautious and focused behind the wheel, especially when driving through work zones.”

    “Work Zone Speeding: A Costly Mistake.” In line with this year’s theme, DOTD will join forces with its federal, state and local safety partners to promote highway safety with a number of events and activities, including two Facebook campaigns.

    Since 1989, in work zones, there have been 314 motor-vehicle fatalities in Louisiana, and most recently, in 2012, 12 deaths and 661 injuries. The data gathered is the most recent year for which figures were available from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

    “Reducing congestion and crashes in work zones is a priority for the Federal Highway Administration here in Louisiana as well as across the country,” stated Wes Bolinger, Division Administrator, Federal Highway Administration, Louisiana Division.

    Also, through the Destination Zero Deaths initiative, Louisiana has made tremendous progress in improving safety on its roadways by decreasing the number of motor-vehicle fatalities from 993 in 2007 to 722 in 2012. However, the department believes one fatality is too many.

    Nationally recognized, Louisiana proclaimed April 7-11 as Work Zone Awareness Week and a 609-safety cone memorial was  be displayed on the front lawn of the DOTD Headquarters Building in Baton Rouge, to recognize those who lost their lives in work zones nationwide. Similar cone memorials will be erected in other areas around the state.

    “The Louisiana State Police has a long standing partnership with the Department of Transportation and Development, and troopers will continue to work diligently to promote work zone safety in Louisiana. Troopers remain committed to aggressive enforcement and delivering a proactive safety education message. Through these efforts, we hope to increase public awareness and directly improve work zone safety not only for the motoring public, but for the workers as well,” said Colonel Mike Edmonson, Louisiana State Police Superintendent.

    “Safety in work zones won’t happen by itself,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, Executive Director, Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “We are all in this together. Everyone is responsible for work zone safety, from engineers and planners to drivers and pedestrians.”

    Also, DOTD has also launched its statewide “Vested Interest in Safety” Facebook campaign to display photos of companies, employees, community members and local leaders wearing orange safety vests. The public is encouraged to participate by submitting “vested” photos to DOTD’s Public Affairs Office, dotdpi@la.gov. Photos will be proudly displayed on the department’s Facebook page.

    Lastly, DOTD will join forces with its Destination Zero Deaths partners, For more information, please visit www.dotd.la.gov, email dotdcs@la.gov, or call DOTD’s Customer Service Center at (225) 379-1232 or 1-877-4LADOTD (1-877-452-3683). Business hours are 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

    Motorists can access up-to-date travel information by dialing 511 or by visiting www.511la.org. Out of-state travelers can call 1-888-ROAD-511 (1-888-762-3511).

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  • NAP to host neighborhood art project

    The LSU Museum of Art takes the Neighborhood Arts Project out to a new community in Gardere, a new proposed site for summer 2014′s NAP.  Until then the NAP will host free art making classes for all ages. Learn more about NAP, the Red Stick Farmers Market, the ICARE organization. The event will be on Saturday, April 12 and starts at 1 p.m. at the Gardere Initiative located at 8435 Ned Ave, Apt A. Free food will provided for the youth from the Sheriff’s Burbank Substation.

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  • Hayes hired as Grambling’s Admissions Director

    GRAMBLING, La.  — Grambling State University has hired Clarence Lavon Hayes as director of admissions and recruitment.

    “Dr. Hayes is a welcomed addition to the division of enrollment management,” said Gloria George, interim associate vice president for enrollment management. “His skills, knowledge and experience will enhance the delivery of services to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and the university community.”

    Hayes is an accomplished professional with over 16 years of education experience at Jackson State University, Hinds Community College, Coahoma Community College and the Clarksdale Municipal School District.  He earned a bachelor’s in public administration from Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, Miss. At Jackson State, he earned a master’s in guidance and counseling and a doctorate in urban higher education at JSU’s executive Ph.D. program.

    Hayes has been the graduation coach at Clarksdale High School in Clarksdale, Miss., monitoring student progress and helping school staff to incorporate ACT standards into the curriculum. As a consultant he has been part of a team of professionals developing and implementing admissions strategies for JSU. The capital city four-year institution has about 9,000 students. GSU has about 5,000.



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  • Is Your Child Safe at the Store?

    From checking off every item on your shopping list to negotiating crowded aisles to minding the kids, a trip to the grocery store can be anything but simple for parents.

    For parents of infants, this everyday errand is even more of a juggling act. While many resort to balancing the baby carrier on the top part of their shopping carts, statistics reveal this maneuver is dangerous.

    In fact, falls from shopping carts are the leading cause of head injuries in young children, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), accounting for tens of thousands of injuries annually. Approximately 16,000 children under the age of five fall out of shopping carts each year, the CPSC estimates, and infant carriers falling from the cart have accounted for as much as five percent of these falls.

    For safer shopping, follow these tips from Safe-Strap, the inventors of the shopping cart seat belt:

    • Despite the appearance that some carriers are designed to fit on top of a shopping cart, this isn’t the case. Manufacturers of car seats and infant carriers even warn against using  their products with shopping carts. Instead, use a cart outfitted with a docking station, such as Safe- Dock, the first universal infant carrier docking station for shopping carts, which allows parents to easily transition their baby carrier from the car to the cart.

    • When possible, shop with a second adult or older child, who can attend to the baby while you gather groceries.

    • Be sure every child riding in a shopping cart seat is wearing a safety belt or harness.

    • Make your local stores safer for children. Retailers are constantly seeking feedback from customers. The next time you are at the store, tell the manager you want carts with infant carrier docks. If you notice a cart with a missing or broken shopping cart seat belt, let a manger know.

    • Learn more about shopping cart safety and locate stores with carts specially fitted with the new universal infant carrier docking system here

    Even parents with the best intentions sometimes don’t always know about shopping cart dangers. By spreading the word to your friends and family with young children, you can make shopping a safer experience for everyone.


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  • Time to regulate Louisiana’s payday lenders

    IN MY SEARCH FOR COMMERCIAL office space in years past, I was shocked to see so many payday loan storefronts in Baton Rouge, many in very close proximity to one another. Indeed, payday lending storefronts out number McDonald’s restaurants in Baton Rouge 4 to 1. I wondered how two identical businesses, some literally next door to each other, could both thrive in the face of competition in such close Quarters.

    It turns out that payday lending is an extremely profitable business in Louisiana. According tot the Center for Responsible Lending, nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting predatory lending practices, Louisianans paid between $181 million and $196 million in fees to payday lenders in 2011.

    Payday loans are generally marketed as quick cash for consumers who need a little extra money to tide them over until their next payday. The repayment period is usually 14 days. However, the profitability of payday lending companies relies on repeat customers getting entrapped in never- ending cycles of debt as they take out additional loans while they struggle to repay existing loans, fees, and their current bills.

    Recognizing the need for payday lending reform, lawmakers have proposed bills in the upcoming legislative session to enact tougher restrictions on payday lending businesses, which, under current state laws, are allowed to charge exorbitant interest rates and fees up to 700%. The proposed legislation by State Rep. Ted James (D-Baton Rouge) and Senator Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa) would cap interest rates on payday loans at 36% annually. This legislation mimics the Federal Military Lending Act’s 36% cap on loans to active duty military members and their families.

    Advocates on both sides of the issue have begun to weigh in as the March 10 commencement of the legislative session nears. Supporters of reform include organizations that represent the elderly, poor and others on fixed incomes. These supporters argue that the predatory lending practices employed by payday loan companies impose a drain on the Louisiana economy, and result in an increase of negative financial outcomes for consumers, which include an increase in job loss and bankruptcies.

    Opponents of reform argue that payday loan companies provide an essential service to their consumers, who usually have credit problems that prevent them from qualifying for traditional loans at financial institutions with more stringent credit worthiness criteria. It does beg the question, would these companies be able to thrive if there was not a high demand for their services? More importantly, are there viable alternatives for consumers who need quick cash, or who are unable to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck?

    Supporters of reform advocate for alternative options such as seeking short-term financial assistance from family members, churches and social service organizations; asking creditors for extensions on due dates; and enrolling in consumer credit counseling plans, which can negotiate lower interest rates and monthly payments on credit card bills. Employers may also be willing to provide a payday advance or overtime work. If feasible, consumers can seek a second part-time job to increase income, while simultaneously eliminating any non-essential expenses. Additionally, while not an ideal option, most credit cards offer cash advance options, the fees for which are usually still lower than payday loan fees.

    Congress recognized a need for consumer protection from predatory lending for military families, and subsequently enacted the Military Lending Act. Ordinary citizens deserve the same protection. While predatory lending practices may garner large profits for payday loan businesses, we should not let the profitability of a few come at such a detriment to the state economy and its most vulnerable citizens.

    More information on the proposed legislation, House Bill 239 and Senate Bill 84, can be found here.

    Kenesha Antoine, Esq. is owner of the Bluest Ink Notary and Legal Services in Baton Rouge 

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  • SAT changes may narrow socio-economic gap

    The SAT college admissions test is undergoing significant changes in 2016. The SAT has long been associated with the Ivy Leagues, high income and racial majority families.

    Studies show that there is a substantial performance gap on the SAT between low-income, minority students and high- income, majority peers. The College Board—creators of the SAT—have recently debuted drastic changes that represent an attempt to narrow the performance gap and to transform the reputation that precedes the standardized test.

    In its current form, the SAT features writing, critical reading and math sections that tend to support rote memorization and surface level reasoning skills – the redesign encourages more analytical thinking. Therefore, the new SAT will ask students to not only choose correct answers, but also provide evidence to support their choices. The math section will narrow in focus and onlyy assess skills through problem solving, data analysis and core algebra and select advance math topics. In addition, students will no longer lose points for choosing incorrect answers. The essay portion will also become optional.

    Besides the actual redesign of the exam, The College Board will help bridge the socioeconomic gap by providing up to four fee waivers and free test prep through Kahn Academy—a free online homework help site.

    The changes to the SAT are commendable. Modifications are closer aligned to classroom outcomes and expectations.

    It will better assess students’ ability to think critically—a hallmark of higher education. Removal of the penalty may reduce test anxiety associated with choosing an incorrect an- swer. Fee waivers and free preparation increase low-

    income students’ participa- tion in and performance on the SAT.

    The College Board said it hopes that the changes will help the SAT keep up with its competitor—The ACT–that is taken by more students across the nation, especially in Louisiana. Louisiana students may want to consider taking both the ACT and the new SAT to have dual options for gaining admission into their college choice.

    While the SAT modifi- cations have bought atten- tion to the influence of race and socioeconomics on col- lege access, K-16 adminis- trators must continue to fo- cus on effectively preparing students for college and ac- curately measuring college readiness. While ACT and SAT tests show that many American students are not meeting college readiness benchmarks, many argue that these exams are not a great predictor of col-lege success. Hopefully, The College Board’s action will prompt other college stakeholders to re-evaluate current college access and preparation practices.

    Erin Wheeler, Ph.D., is a STEM Learning Strategy Consultant at Louisiana State University’s Center for Academic Success and owner of E_Source Learning Solutions in Amite. 

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  • Calling all young chefs

    FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA is teaming up with Epicu- rious, the Department of Education, and the Depart- ment of Agriculture to host the third-annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge reci- pe contest.

    Kids ages 8-12, with the help of their parents, can take part in the challenge by sending in original lunch recipes that are healthy, affordable, and tasty!

    Participating young chefs can use USDA’s MyPlate as a resource to make sure that their recipes meet healthy standards. Each lunch recipe should represent all of the food groups, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy foods, with fruits and veggies making up about half of the plate or recipe.

    The creators of the best recipes will be invited to D.C. this summer, where they will have the opportunity to attend a Kids’ “State Dinner,” hosted by Mrs. Obama at the White House, where a selection of the winning healthy recipes will be served.

    Just last week, the First Lady announced that cooking will be a new focus for Let’s Move!, so start honing those skills and enter the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.

    The deadline to submit recipes is April 5 – only two weeks away — so if you’re looking for something to do with your kids this weekend, get cooking!

    Learn more about the challenge by clicking  here

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  • Taylor criticizes media coverage

    EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH SCHOOL Superintendent Bernard Taylor said he believes more of the district’s success and less of its shortcom- ings should be seen in the media.

    “In this environment it seems so many other issues get attention than what our core business is (and that’s) educating children,” Taylor said on March 17 at a Baton Rouge Area Association of Black Journalists meeting.

    Taylor said the media tend to focus on more sa- lacious stories instead of highlighting the schools’ striving to maintain aca- demic excellence.

    “Our students are making a tremendous amount of progress over a very short period of time, they are the most important factor. The media isn’t tell- ing the story of the district, but the story of the student and what they’ve accomplished.”

    According to ebrschools.org, some of the successes for the district include 42 percent of the schools having increased academic performance by one letter grade and 72 per- cent of schools having been deemed “academically ac- ceptable” by the state.

    Taylor said he understands that not all students are alike and that the dis-rict prides itself on the many options it provides to students being educated, such as magnet programs, Montessori and visual and performing arts programs. Taylor also wants parents of special needs students to know that the system is striving to make sure those students are accommodated.

    “One thing that we are going to highlight [is] the choices we offer to special- ed students. We educate students with severe physi- cal disabilities, autistic students, students with speech impediments, students with learning disabilities and students who have emotional disabilities that might impede their learn- ing, but there is no other entity in the community that does that in the totality [like this] school district does.”

    During the past six years EBRPSS has strived to improve and is mere points away from becoming a B rated school district. This year 12 EBR schools improved their state rank- ing to “academically ac- ceptable” and more than 50 percent of the schools in the district are graded “C” or higher.

    “I would dare to say we have seen more stories about fights than we have about an analysis of what the data is telling us.” Tay- lor said that biggest challenge EBRPSS is facing is getting people to under- stand that by working to- gether, the district will educate students successfully and that financially there are issues that will have to be addressed legislatively to ensure all students are afforded the best educational opportunities available to them.

    EBR recently made headlines in Baton Rouge when the state ordered a review of the records of recent public high school graduates. The review was ordered when it was found that an area student gradu- ated without meeting state requirements. An audit completed on March 14 found that were other stu- dents who received grades or credits that differed from those the school system reported to the state.

    According to the audit report, the school system has until April 4 to develop a corrective action plan to prevent such problems from recurring.

    Released March 17, the audit also examined whether some students listed as transferring else- where should be consid- ered dropouts. It also fur- ther explores the case of the initial student records that sparked the audit.

    “People make mis- takes, but at the end of the day there is nothing in the report that points to any level of malfeasance or staff altering the books. We’re talking about human error and unfortunately people make mistakes.” Taylor said he will meet with State Superintendent of Educa- tion John White to discuss the audit’s findings

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  • Wright Museum in jeopardy

    DETROIT’S CHARLES H. WRIGHT Museum, the largest mu- seum of African American history, faces an uncertain future following the city’s bankruptcy.

    Referred to as the most financially challenged cul- tural center in the city, the 49-year-old museum made national headlines when it was announced it would have to sell of its fine art to help reduce the city’s $18 billion debt owed to bond- holders and pensioners.

    Kevyn Orr, the city’s emergency manager, pub- lished a plan proposing a $100 million fundraising deal and $350 million from the state that could possibly keep the museum from auc- tioning off a fraction of its collection. No other fund- raising plans for the Wright museum have yet to be seen, placing the predomi- nantly Black city’s commu- nity cultural centerpiece in financial jeopardy.

    According to blackamericaweb.com: the city of Detroit went from contributing more than $2 million annually to the museum’s budget of roughly $7 million to– post-recession–offering $900,000 to a current budget of $4.5 million.

    A majority of funding

    previously came from the city’s auto industry philanthropies, but provisions have been drastically lower from some, such as GM, and non-existent from others like former benefactor, Chrysler.

    In addition to a wave of salary cuts and even larger staff cuts, the museum has had to turn to non-traditional partnerships with external groups.

    Museum membership has dropped from 20,000 to 7,000 in recent years, a decline attributed to the lack of foundation money covering school children’s memberships.

    Founded in 1965 in the offices of civil rights activist and Black obstetrician Charles H. Wright, the museum is home to more than 20 thousand items ranging from letters of Malcolm X and Rosa Parks to several prototypes of inventions, like the stoplight and gas mask, created by African American scientists.

    Although impressive none of the museum’s items hold enough monetary value to help significantly reduce the city’s overwhelming debt.

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  • BE gives A.G. Gaston Lifetime Achievement Award

    AT THE FIRST BLACK ENTER- prise Entrepreneurs Con- ference held at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in 1996, BE introduced the A.G. Gaston Lifetime Achievement Award – its highest honor for entre- preneurial excellence – by presenting the honor to ad- vertising industry visionary Thomas J. Burrell, founder and CEO of Burrell Communications Group.

    The reason: Burrell’s “reputation for sharing his knowledge and expertise [as well as the fact] that he is an inspirational leader of the African American community.” His stellar achievements were found to be in keeping with the tradition of the legendary business trailblazer in which the award is named.

    Burrell became known as the “Dean of Black Advertising” after gaining a track record for breaking barriers within the media industry. He started his advertising career as a copywriter for Chicago- based Wade Advertising and then Leo Burnett in the early 1960s.

    By 1967, he took a position in Foot Cone & Belding’s London Office, and when he returned to American shores a year later he quickly rose to become a copy supervisor at Needham Harper & Steers.

    In 1971, he decided to launch an agency with a partner, who would depart a few years later, and transformed it into an advertising powerhouse.




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  • ,

    Comedian Howard Hall reacts to Obama’s Between Two Ferns interview

    OUR PRESIDENT BARACK Obama is by far in my opinion one of the smoothest, confident and smartest presidents we have had in this great country. (May I add he married Michelle Obama… Smart Move) He has a way of placing himself in certain situations where he can get the most impact for his agenda. Case in point… Funny or Die’s Exclusive “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis.

    watch it here

    In this interview Zach is known for his offend questions and his straight face insults to his guest but the President handled it in style. I know President Obama can only say certain things due to being the leader of the Free World but I, comedian Howard

    Hall, can be the voice of what he really wanted to say. This is how the interview would have went:

    Howard: Hi my name is Howard Hall and welcome to “Between Two

    Ferns” and my guest today is Bara.. President Barack Obama.

    President Obama: Mess my name up one more time and you will come up missing.HOWARD-HALL

    Howard: Ok… Did you send Ambassador Rodman to North Korea? I heard you were sending Hulk Hogan to Syria.

    President Obama: No but I will be sending

    AmbassadorJoe Biden in here to choke slam you back to your high school weight. Which is 7 pounds less than what you are now by the way.

    Howard: How does it feel to be the last African

    American President? President Obama: How

    does it feel to talk to the last black person you’re going to see on this earth?

    Howard: Ok…That is all I have before I end up on the wrong end of Government Conspiracy.

    Then President Obama kicks over the two ferns and salutes the camera.

    End of Interview

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  • Evans named “Detective of the Year”

    Detective Dwight Evans has been named “Detective of the year by the St.Tammany Parish Sheriff’s office. In 2013, he was as
    signed 186 cases with a solve rate of 36 percent. This far exceeds the national average of 19 percent by nearly
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  • Lil ‘Boosie shares plans for new releases

    NEW ORLEANS–ONE THING can be certain about when Baton Rouge rapper Tor- rence “Lil Boosie” Hatch was incarcerated: he never got complacent.

    In fact, Hatch wrote 1,018 songs, a movie script and a book during his four and a half years incarcerat- ed for drug charges. Hatch put all rumors to rest at his “Boosie Speaks” press conference held Monday, March 10, at the W Hotel inNew Orleans.

    “They said I had more release dates than Jordans,” he joked with the crowd. Hatch told media about how the first thing he did upon his release was go pick up his seven children to spend some time with them. He’s also been sur- rounding himself by other family and friends—and making headlines for doing some major shopping.

    “It improved me,” Hatch said about  his time incarcerated. “I went through some stuff while I was in prison.”

    Hatch, whose larger physical stature hinted that he’s in better shape, said the time in prison also made him stronger and wiser.

    A lot of things have changed since Hatch went to prison, including the appearance of social site Instagram. He said part of how it works still surprises him, and he plans to go on it soon “straight flexin,’” as rapper Trinidad James rhymes.

    The hip-hop indus- try was there in full effect to support Hatch. Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy called Monday “a big day for hip- hop.”

    Jeezy has been a big supporter of Hatch for a while now. He talked about being inspired by what all he overcame.

    Baton Rouge artist Jacob Zumo created portrait of the rapper during the conference

    Baton Rouge artist Jacob Zumo creates portrait of the rapper during the press conference.

    “I never heard him sound like the system broke him,” Jeezy said.

    Legendary Texas rap- per and Hatch’s mentor Bun B echoed those senti- ments and said that a lot of people did not want to see a young black man make it.

    “Boosie is home,” he said to an excited crowd.

    With Hatch’s growing fan base and buzz surrounding his release from prison, Bun B said it won’t take long for his career to reach the next level.

    “All Boosie has to do right now is be Boosie. We don’t want him to come home and sound like this person,” Bun B said after the press conference.

    “He doesn’t need to do a song featuring that person. He doesn’t need beats by so and so. He doesn’t need a video directed by anybody,” he added. “All Boosie has to do is be Boosie.”

    Hatch’s friend and musical partner Lil Webbie had the crowd laughing as he went up and sat on stage with moderator Angela Yee of The Breakfast Club and told people how God told him Hatch would be get- ting out of prison soon.

    “I said, ‘I talked to God, bruh. You coming home, bruh,” he said.

    Hatch’s attorneys said he’s in complete compliance with his release stipulations and might be on probation for four more years.

    And don’t worry Lil Boosie fans, he should be cleared to travel and per- form by the end of March. He already has shows ap- pearing on Ticketmaster, including an April 13 date in Birmingham. He is also scheduled to perform in Lafayette April 19 at the Cajundome, according to the arena’s website.

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  • Who to watch: Rev. Thomas N. Bessix


    Louisiana is home for many talented, intellectual, cultured, and politically savvy people. The staff and publisher of The Drum Newspaper have identified the people to watch in the new year. We introduce them to you here and encourage you to follow them along with us as we report on how they impact Ponchatoula, Baton Rouge, and the state. These are leaders in entertainment, business, education, and public policy—watch them.

    Senior Pastor, New Gideon Baptist Church Executive Director, PICO Louisiana

    Age: 40

    Hometown: Maringouin, La

    Moves made in 2013: 2013 was a very busy year. In the ValleyPark community, we cleared three vacant lots, painted and planted
    fresh plants around the community entrance sign on Bawell, built entry ramps for two senior citizens and cleared trash from the street. We also started a free after-schoolstudy hall and a free summer enrichment program that offered a breakfast, lunch and a snack. We fed more than 500 people. Our men’s ministry is mentoring five teenagers.In 2013, PICO Louisiana worked across the state to bring awareness to Governor Jindal’s unfair tax plan of which he chose not to pursue because of PICO’s applied pressure, as well as other groups like ours.

    What to expect in 2014: For New Gideon and the Valley Park community, we are offering more assistance to seniors, doubling the number of families we reach during community fellowships, and expanding our tutoring and summer enrichment programs. With PICO, we are raising a statewide campaign focusing on mass- incarceration and sentencing reform in 2014.*

    Personal Resolution for 2014: Striving for excellence. Business/Company Resolution for 2014: Don’t lose focus on the mission.
    Life/business motto: Striving for excellence.
    What are you listening to? I have Maze featuring Frankie Beverly Live in New Orleans and Ty Tribbett in my CD changer now.
    What are you reading? The Bible and The New Jim Crow Law by Michelle Alexander.

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  • Summit seeks to increase male success in college

    NEW ORLEANS–DILLARD University is exploring ways Louisiana colleges can increase enrollment and re- tention rates among Black men on their campuses.

    The New Orleans’ HBCU initiated this pro- cess by hosting an event called “Louisiana Summit on Black Male Student Suc- cess in Higher Education.” The goal of the summit was to introduce methods of de- veloping programs and ini- tiatives to ensure a healthy matriculation of Black men through college while in- creasing their presence.

    “More has been written about Black men since 1997 than any other race or sex group in higher education, but yet the outcomes re- main unchanged, ”said Dr. Shawn R. Harper, Execu- tive Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at Uni- versity of Pennsylvania.

    Harper, who served as the Keynote speaker, said that individuals who share research using negative headlines and statistics are creating initiatives based on what he refers to as “bad math”.

    “I often argue in my work that those who really want to improve success for Black male undergrad- uate students have much to learn from Black male un- dergraduate students who are successful, but that is often not the first part of strategy,” Harper said.

    Harper acknowledged the success of the Urban Prep School, a Chicago all- Black-boys high school. Ur- ban Prep has made head- line news for the past four consecutive years due to its 100 percent graduation rate and four-year college acceptance.

    “Why not go to a place where 100 percent of the seniors, who are guys, got admitted to college and try

    to figure out what in the world [they are doing] phil- osophically, organization- ally, politically, financially and intrinsically – and what they have done there will be the instructive for the rest us who are concerned with improving rates of success among Black male students” Harper said.

    Harper noted that sometimes when institu- tions want to implement programs they over look the basic steps when it comes to planning. He said the downfall of well-inten- tioned initiatives could sim- ply be the fact that no plan has been written down.

    “There have also been missing standards. No standards by which to design, implement and as- sess and these initiatives”, Harper said.

    Former University of Toledo professor Tyrone Bledsoe, PhD agreed with Harper’s appeal. Bledsoe is the founder of the Student African American Brother- hood (SAAB), a mentoring organization that focuses on ways to increase college readiness and retention among Black men through- out the country by holding administrators responsible for their students’ success.

    “I want everyone to stand, look at the person next to you and see if you can find something wrong with them,” Bledsoe in- structed the summit audi- ence. “I want you to look at that person and see if they are at risk – isn’t that what we do with Black males?”

    Bledsoe continued by explaining that he used the exercise to describe the way that initiatives approach Black men with the “I can fix you” attitude, instead of assets to our communities.

    SAAB works by imple- menting its mentor style program in middle school through college levels by working with school dis- tricts and university ad- ministrators. Bledsoe said the organization operates this way so there is always a level of accountability at the administration level.

    According to Bledsoe, the issue of Black men be- ing successful in higher education has now become an international issue and he is working with orga- nizations in Germany and London to introduce his mentoring initiative.

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  • NAACP critical of superientendent

    AMITE—BLACK LEADERS SAID they are highly critical of the Tangipahoa Parish School Board and the large amount of wasted taxpayer money going into the par- ish schools.

    Community leader and elected official Iram Gordon of Kentwood expressed her feelings in a recent boardmeeting regarding the lack of support for the schools in Kentwood.

    Former Kentwood High principal Ann Smith, who represents the area as a board member, disagreed with Gordon. Smith garnered the support of school board member Brett Duncan, who stated that she led efforts to have a new $15 million O.W Dillion Elementary School Built and allotted for millions of dollars in renovations for kentwood high.

    Pat Morris, who is president of theGreater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP, fielded questions to the Tangipahoa Parish School Board on the state of its schools. She said that individuals who question what’s happening with the schools have listed many times when their calls to the administration have gone unanswered and unreturned.

    “We are going to bring heavy, heavy pressure on our superintendent, assistant superintendent and chief academic of- ficer,” Morris said. “We renew our cam- paigner for a trained educator as super- intendent. We emphasize it is not a race thing – it is about quality education.

    Our current superintendent cannot provide leadership as an educator – he is not one – this should now be obvious. His leadership is putting the parish deeper in the hole in the desegregation case and the failure of schools to meet state standards cannot be ignored.”

    Neighboring parish St. Tammany has “A” rated schools; while Tangipahoa Par- ish is saturated with “D” and “F” rated schools.

    The Recovery School District is close

    in proximity and is taking over schools and turning them over to private charter school corporations from outside the state, removing control from the local school board and from local parents. RSD is not only giving the schools to these out of state private corporations, it is also giving these private corporations control of the prop- erty paid for with local tax dollars.

    The Greater Tangipahoa NAACP chapter said it feels that the statements presented are legitimate concerns that de- serve response.

    “This is not about personal agendas, nor vendettas,” Morris continued. “It is about the future of every child in this school system. We can do better. We must do better.”

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  • Justin Garner: Rising to International fame

    TOURING WITH TREY SONGZ AND outselling Beyoncé are just two accomplishments that are pushing pop singer Justin Garner to the forefront of the music industry. His ability to wrap so many genres inside his R&B and pop melodies even have people around world taking notice.

    In 2011 Garner released his sophomore album I am, and in February a re-mastered version with new songs debuted on Japan’s iTunes R&B charts at #19. In just mere hours it had surpassed Beyonce’s self-tilted album for the #1 spot.

    “I got on iTunes and looked for myself in Japan and found a big banner saying Justin Garner that was right next to a Beyoncé ad. I was number one and she was number 12,” Garner said.

    While his music has been released in the United States, Garner said he believes that a big reason that it has received so much attention in Japan is that the Japanese approach new artists differently than Americans. Justin Japan itunes

    “Overseas in Japan they love great singers and vocals. There, it’s more about the searching for music from abroad, but in America it’s more about the politics and marketing side.”

    In an age where social media networks have become the standard way to communicate, Garner has

    used the popularity of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to ensure that his music gets to his fans, which he refers to as the “JG Army”.

    Garner said touring and social media have been great ways to gain exposure, but as an independent artist, without the support of a label, the biggest asset to his arsenal of marketing strategies has been his education. He has a marketing degree from Southern University that he uses as one of the biggest tools in the promotion of his music.

    “Music is great but you have to have some level of marketing behind you to help you get music out. You can be the best singer, but you have to have the knowledge and know- how, and I feel that that degree gave me that.”

    Garner refers to Michael Jackson and Usher as his inspirations, but said he developed his passion for music growing up in church. Yet while he acknowledges those things, he said he has been told that his talent comes from his father, Ernest “Oldie” Garner, who died when he was two. Earnest was a member of the Plaquemine-based band The Rockin’ Imperials who also saw international success.

    Garner said he is going to continue his career and the trail started by his father as he prepares to release his newest E.P., 7. Inspired by a recent trip to

    California, 7 is a project containing seven tracks recorded in seven days. It will be released at the beginning of April.

    justin garner two  copy“So many great things happened on that [California] trip and I came back on such an emotional high. I was inspired to write these seven songs”.

    He is planning a summer tour in the United States and Japan to promote 7 and celebrate the success of I Am. But before then, Garner said he is also setting aside time to give back to Louisiana and will be working with the Baton Rouge Chapter of the American Red Cross.

    “The people at the Red Cross are just like us, except instead of getting up to go to work, they’re getting up to volunteer to be

    there for their community.”
    Last year Garner helped the organization start the “Give Back Campaign” where portions of the proceeds from a concert hosted by Garner were donated the American Red Cross. He will be doing the

    concert again this year.
    With all of his recent success

    and the success expected to come Garner, he said he has a goal that goes deeper than just to entertain the masses.

    “I enjoy seeing someone else’s expression to music, more than the spotlight, giving someone peace of mind for a just a few minutes is what I enjoy.”

    In the future, Garner said he would like to be signed to major record label. His ideal music contract would be with a label supportive enough to invest in a singer who writes, co-produces and has independently released material. So far he has yet to be offered that non-controlling type of contract, but he’s hopeful. Until then, he plans to continue pursuing his independent career and making himself undeniable.

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  • Today is only the beginning

    A commentary by  Dr. Joyce Turner Keller

    I awake this morning to find that my past is not yet my past.

    Looking back over my life, it has become abundantly clear that some of the people we love and let go of, never really go away.   It is so strange that you spend so much time trying to do the right thing, to be a good giving person, attempting to make a difference in the live of others, only to find that you cannot trust the word of someone you loved and lived with for years.  When you move on and the other person doesn’t, is it fair for them come back years later and try to hurt you, discredit you, destroy your reputation?  The question is ringing loudly in my ear, why is this person so angry at me, when it was his choice to move on and I accepted his decision.  It is always good to have relationships without strings attached, which is what I thought we had.  This person lifted me up when I was down, stood by me when I was alone, embraced me when other pushed me aside, believed in me when others gave up on me, saw my worth when others dismissed my existences.   I am strong, restored, and stable because of him, and grateful to him.  I have chosen to not live in the past, but use my life journey as a roadmap to a better future.  It wounds me to know that many years of my life has become a tug of war of emotions.  A time when darkness was all I saw, based on the struggles I faced on a road back to wellness.  I have come to the conclusion that he is not my problem, and his emotions are his own, his choice was his, and my freedom and future is mine.

    Today is only the beginning of the bright future I have chosen; the decision I have made is to be whole and complete.  Today, I will continue to be the best I can be and not take responsibility for the actions of someone from my past!  Today my past is my past, and the beginning of a time to move forward without reservations and regrets!

    It is important to know that some people will never be happy unless they can make you unhappy!


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  • ,

    Remainsof 55 bodies found

    THE REMAINS OF 55 BODIES were found in makeshift graveyard at a former Florida reform school.

    University of South Florida announced that an excavation of a makeshift graveyard near a now- closed reform school in the Florida Panhandle yielded almost twice the number bodies official records said were there.

    “Locating 55 burials is a significant finding which opens up a whole new set of questions for our team,” said USF professor Erin Kimmerle, head of the research project.

    The Dozier School for Boys was closed by the state in 2011, but a university was commissioned to look into deaths after the Florida Department of LawnEnforcement announced the presence of 31 official grave sites in 2010.

    Located in the Panhandle city of Marianna; former inmates claim the school became infamous for accounts of brutality.

    The team of more than 50 searchers from nine agencies dug up the graves to check out local legends and family tales of boys, mostly black, who died or disappeared without explanation.

    “The only way to truly establish the facts about the deaths and burials at the school is to follow scientific processes,” Kimmerle said.

    Excavation began last September with several artifacts from gravesites sent to the University of North Texas Science Center for DNA testing.

    Members of 11 families who lost boys at Dozier have been located by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for DNA sampling. Researchers hope to find 42 more families for possible matching.

    Research will continue in areas adjacent to the graveyard, dubbed “boot hill” by school officials and inmates a century ago.

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  • Comedic Trail Keeper: Tiffany Dickerson

    THROUGHOUT FEBRUARY, THE NATION PAYS HOMAGE to the great legends of Black history and reflects on the hardships these pioneers endured in order to blaze a trail through the thorny and violent jungle of American racism. There are lessons on Black pioneers in politics, science, medicine, entertainment, and sports. For the trails that they individually blazed, America has become a different society and many Blacks hold to a responsibility to extend the trail forward. In opera, there was Marian Anderson. In dance, there was Alvin Ailey and Katherine Dunham. And in comedy, there was Redd Foxx and Jackie “Moms” Mabley. Five exceptionally gifted Louisianans are keeping the trails blazed by these pioneers. In New Orleans, there’s OperaCréole founder Givonna Joseph and in Monroe, comedian Robert Powell III. In Baton Rouge, there’s businessman Cleve Dunn Jr.,  stand-up comedienne Tiffany Dickerson, and choreographer Winter McCray. They are our modern day keepers of the trail. Here are their stories.

    Comedy Trailblazer: Jackie “Moms” Mabley 

    Comedy Trail: keeper Tiffany Dickerson 

    At the age of 14, Loretta Aiken left home for a career in show business, where she would sing and entertain before joining the Chitlin’ Circuit. As Jackie ‘Moms” Mabley, Aiken become the “funniest woman in the world” during the early 1900s, making audiences laugh through her raunchy, yet warm stand up routines. At the height of her career, Moms had produced more than 20 albums of comedy and earned $10,000 performing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

    She was known to use her humor to tackle edgy topics like racism and lesbianism. As the fi rst Black comedienne, Mabley became “Moms” to future stand-up performers including Redd Foxx. As her popularity grew, she began performing in Carnegie Hall and on mainstream TV where a young Tiffany Dickerson would sneak to watch her.Dickerson is one of about a dozen female comediennes in Louisiana, including Anjelah Johnson, Carissa Mabry, and Jinny Henson.

    “Moms is legendary,” she said. “Whoopie (Goldberg) is about the only person comparable. I look to pioneers who were doing comedy when it wasn’t the norm.” And the industry is still male-dominated.

    “There still just isn’t enough of us,” said Dickerson who is a local communications professional and national motivational speaker. She has wholly embraced her comedic side and began an aggressive stand-up career as the “Mic Chick”.  “It’s been a whirlwind with the comedy,” she said.

    Dickerson performs original stand-up and improv that combines lip-syncing, jokes, and acting. “I like to interact with the audience…I do a lot of other work, so I’m not just doing stand-up. It’s a combination and a true performance,” she said.

    For her, stand-up comedy is about presenting real life and “having the guts to be able to share it…We are never out of shortage of topics to talk about but it’s about stepping out… My intent is to make the audience laugh at the end of the night.”

    Like Moms, Dickerson said, “everything in life I have experienced—whether the happy or the painful things—have truly prepared me for the stage.”

    A self-defined introvert, Dickerson said she wrestles with the professional image and the parts of her that is also extrovert. “When I am preparing, I, focused and tucked away. When I’m out on stage, I’m at 110! I’m turned up!” she said. “My material incorporates little nuggets of knowledge in the performance.”

    She said she lives a very purpose-driven life and when she hears someone say “I haven’t laughed this hard in so long, then it make me feels like everything I’m doing is worthwhile.”

    “I want to be a legacy for when my kids refl ect back, I want them to know that every day I was trying to bring laughter and happiness to people.” For that, comedian Tiffany Dickerson is keeper of Moms Mabley trail.

    Dickerson will host her” I’m about to Pop” comedy show this Friday, March 28th. Find out more information here.

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  • Can X-box help girls lose weight?

      Pennington Biomedical Research Center  is currently looking for up to 20 teenage girls to help determine whether dance video games can actually be a successful form of exercise for teenagers.

     Participating girls will come to Pennington Biomedical Research Center after school 3 times per week and play games like “Just Dance” and “Dance Central” as a group on the Kinect for Xbox gaming system.  Dance sessions will be overseen by Pennington fitness trainers, and girls will have the opportunity to learn about aspects of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

    To participate, girls must be 14-18 years old, overweight, and free of any medical conditions that prohibit physical activity.  Girls can receive up to $300 in compensation for participating.

    To learn more about the requirements click here

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  • When the deck is stacked against you

    LIFE IS A JOURNEY, DEATH A destination! I choose to enjoy every moment of my journey, my life. It does not matter the state that in which I find myself.

    Today, like every day, I am so very blessed. It makes more sense to me to look at how abundant is my bounty, rather
    than how bare the cupboard.

    After having two surgeries in seven days, getting a horrible infection, unbelievable sweating, vomiting, and a frightening hair weave experience, it was time to find a sense of calm.

    After being told cancer was found in my right breast, no matter how large or small, the word cancer is all you hear. I responded by saying, “this is the one thing I told God I did not want, cancer!” Suddenly I am reminded that He never said it would not happen.

    At that moment I know God has given me another opportunity to testify to His power of healing, grace and mercy, another part of my journey, my purpose. Looking back at how many times the deck has been stacked against me I reflect on how the

    hand was played that was dealt to me. I fought my way back one step, one hour, one day, one prayer at time.

    This time I look in the mirror and I see the weave standing like tall grass in an un- kept yard. I call a beautician to work her magic, no luck, I buy products to do my own hair, no luck, I cannot do it myself

    because of the surgeries. Deciding to be pro-active against “cancer,” I thought it best to get rid of every woman’s fear, what her hair look like. I look at myself and see a beautiful, tall, strong, prayerful and determined woman, Me.

    Thank God for hair clippers and a razor. I shave my head, put on my pearl earrings and necklace, breathing sigh of relief. My hair does not define me, at least not today, it is in the trash can. Now I can truly focus on what really matters, my healing, resting, and taking the best care of myself that I can. People, some of you may think this a drastic move, but it is what is best for me. This is my storm and I will weather it the way God, my doctors and I think best. I know not the end of the story, but I do know that I am prayed up and prepared to continue this journey called life.

    It is important that we walk in wisdom, to sur- round yourself with posi- tive people with positive thinking. I have been well trained to handle the trials, struggles, losses, and dis- appointments of this jour- ney. It is an honor to know that the best and prepared are always put in the game first, called on to make the winning shot, chosen for special teams to represent

    their country, school, orga- nization, political party, or church.

    I am excited to know that I am a soldier in the Army of God, chosen to be on His special team, al- ways put on the front line, because I know He will not put more on me than I can bear. I am a proud soldier that will wear every diag- nosis or scar as a badge of honor. For it is an bless- ing to be not only called but chosen. Take care my friends, and play well the hand you are dealt, when the deck appears to be stacked against you!

    by Joyce Turner Keller

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